Sharks Gameday: "Minnesota wild"

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7:30 PST
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24-18-5, 53 points 24-19-5,53 points
9th in Western Conference
10th in Western Conference

Television
CSN-CA (HD)
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Hockey Wilderness
Russo's Rants

One thing I love about this job is the weekend gameday. Although Fear The Fin has taken on a progressively more professional tone over the past year and a half, the weekend gameday is a day where I feel like I'm able to kick my shoes off and bring a more casual discussion to the table. Oftentimes I'll find myself wanting to write more about personal experiences than hockey, or at the very least, find a way to intertwine the two together instead of focusing solely on the particulars of a certain player or team-wide trend.

I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and my parents lived there until their early 30's-- a big part of who I am today can be traced back to those roots, especially considering my entire family (outside of a great uncle who resides in Napa Valley) has lived in the state all their lives. As a kid I was a big fan of every Minnesota sports team, which included the Twins, Vikings, and now defunct Northstars, and collected sports equipment like it was candy. My dad and I used to play a goaltending game in the basement ("Basements? Front yards? What the hell are those?") where we would set up a rectangular laundry basket to serve as a goal. I'd put on my baseball glove in my left hand, handle a Neal Broten stick in my right, plop a Vikings football helmet on my head, and strap two pillows on my legs for goalie pads. He'd take some socks, bunch them up together into a ball to serve as the puck, and unleash some howitzers at me from across the room.

If you have young children, and can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on hockey equipment that your kids will grow out of in a year, it's a great way to get them into the game-- some of my finer memories from childhood were from playing that game in the basement*.

*If you hear your kid saying that after visiting a friend's house however, probably best to look into it.

After the Northstars left my dad kind of grew out of the whole hockey scene before picking it up again when we moved to San Jose. He was crushed by the demise of the Northstars, and I along with it. Once Minnesota received the Wild we had already moved out to California, and since there isn't any real attachment to the team because I had already begun to follow the Sharks, the comings and goings of the franchise don't really concern me outside of the general interest I have in the sport of hockey as a whole.

Which is unfortunate considering I still get goosebumps whenever I hear Kent Hrbek's name or see Joe Mauer punching a pitch into the opposite field for a double-- my connection to Minnesota is strong considering the family ties, but my attachment has become more and more of one bred from nostalgia instead of a visceral "Let's finish this hot dish before The U plays Wisconsin" rush of adrenaline. I try to make it back there every summer (and will again this year for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft), but that's the extent of it all-- all I have is memories of the glory days, slowly and surely becoming softened up by the California sun.

At any rate, the name "Minnesota Wild" makes me laugh nearly every time I hear it because of my experience both living and visiting Minnesota. The state has a stereotype for producing some pretty bread and butter folks who don't possess a lot of eccentric traits, and although the name is clearly a reference to the wilderness, interpreting it by the other definition of wild (extravagant, emotional, etc.) gets me every time.

Minnesota wild is taking your sweatshirt off before making love. It's deciding not to put marshmallows in a green jello salad, ordering a soda at a restaurant instead of a pop, electing a public official based on their political platform (instead of their entertainment career), and choosing not to get your family tickets to the State Fair. Minnesota wild is having a house salad instead of cheese curds, growing your hair past your ears, and forgetting to say "Oh I'm sorry, didn't see ya there" when someone bumps into you in line.

Minnesota wild is about as wild as a lutefisk sandwich between two slices of bread. And do I ever love it just the way it is.

Yup, you betcha.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Goals by McGinn, Pavelski, and Couture. After Miikko Koivu scores in the dying seconds of the third, Wild fans feel guilty about cheering for the fact that Niemi didn't get a shutout.

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