And, now, I have something to fill that off-season.
Hockey. More specifically, Iowa Wild hockey.
A year ago, I knew nothing about hockey. I was interested in learning more, but I hadn't yet taken the leap to really engage with the game. So when some friends suggested purchasing a five-game package to the Iowa Wild last summer, I eagerly agreed. Little did I know what was in store for me.
:: I went to 15 games. And most of those were solo outings, which was great as I was able to really focus on the game when I went alone. I also met some great new people this way.
:: I found a group of fans I now refer to as my hockey family. Have you seen "Fever Pitch"? All those season ticket holders that sit around Ben? Yeah, these people are a lot like that. And they've taught me so much about hockey already. Mostly some ornery chants and a few things about the penalties.
:: I picked a favorite very quickly. Brett Sutter captured my attention almost immediately. I honestly think it was the first game. I loved the way he skated and played. And then I met him. Before we snapped a photo, I told him he was my favorite and the main reason I had gotten excited about hockey. He was flattered. And then he was traded, and my hockey heart experienced its first break. It was a rough Leap Day. (P.S. I'm still following his career with the Ontario Reign, who are currently in the Calder Cup Playoffs.)
:: I witnessed the first hat trick in Iowa Wild history (this was only their third season of life). That was pretty fun! Thanks Christoph Bertschy!!
:: I purchased a 21-game package for next year. The ticket rep barely had to twist my arm, but there are a lot of perks with my ticket package. Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to catching all those games with my hockey family (yep, I bought a seat down near them).
:: I bid on and won a game-used warm-up/practice jersey in a charity silent auction. It's huge (he's the goalie, so ...), and I can't decide if I'll ever wear it, but I'm so happy I have it.
:: I won an autographed stick during the last game. I didn't even have to bid on this one. I just got lucky and went home with a Mikey Reilly signed stick. (And it was a nice companion during my six-block walk back to my car.)
I am now decidedly a hockey fan. Iowa Wild hockey has filled a place in my sports heart and life that I didn't even know was empty. They won me over in one season, and I look forward to seeing more great games and learning even more about the sport next season. I casually cheer for the big club too, but the local boys are my favorites.