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A Grave Injustice

3 October 2022

My comrades, there’s so much to be joyful about regarding hockey. tUMD women have spent the last 2 weeks on the road and have come home with 4 big wins from opponents critical to their PWR comparisons, especially Penn State, who beat Wisconsin the week prior. (I don’t know what that OT win does to the PWR win%, now that it’s been over complicated, but whatever.) tUMD men had two come-from-behind wins over Satan’s Minions, with exciting performances from rookies Ben Steeves and Isaac Howard. The games were a bit clunky at times, but early season clunkiness is fine as long as the result is a W. Or 0.666 PWR Ws. Or whatever.

And yet, I cannot enjoy this. I only feel a mixture of desolation and rage, for I have been denied what is rightfully mine: an Old Dutch chip clip.

As you are all aware, tUMD runs a promo all season in which they select a section to win an Old Dutch chip clip. This selection is made using an animation of a Price is Right-style wheel with section numbers on it. I have not ascertained if this wheel is calibrated and independently certified as balanced, but I can trust that the paperwork can be provided upon request.

Saturday night, my sectionmates and I watched, eager and hopeful, as the wheel ticked around and around, before rejoicing as it came to its digital rest upon Section 217, our home for these past many years. We were finally victorious.

And yet, we went home empty-handed. There were no marketing interns at the top of the section, ready to hand out our prize. We waited, looking longingly at the top of the steps for one to appear, arms laden with plastic clips, ready to deliver them into our waiting hands.

It is totally irrelevant that I already have 2 or 3 of these at home. I wanted this one, that I had earned through the hard work of purchasing a ticket and sitting in a seat and running my mouth. Maybe I want to have three bags of chips open. Or two bags of chips and a bag of oyster crackers. It doesn’t matter – I want what I’m due.

Initial promises were made by an unnamed tUMD marketing executive, but only to Biddco and not to me, so I am withholding any legal action pending the outcome of the next Saturday home game, and also pending the identification of legal counsel willing to take this case pro bono, which I’m sure will be no problem.

Hockeyland: The Review

21 September 2022

Two Fridays ago, I went to see Hockeyland with The Aaaahj, Dan of the Week, Mrs. Dan of the Week, and Fetus of the Week. Since the four of us are Big Deal AMC A-Listers (no corporate ruling on whether fetal personhood requires a move ticket for the unborn), we’re always up-to-date on cool happenings like a post-movie Q&A sesh with the filmmakers, so we headed over to Southdale and endured their uncomfortable reclining seats to see the film. I also endured eating too much cheese pre-movie and feeling like total garbage for like 75% of the showing.

it me

Hockeyland is a documentary following two boys’ high school hockey programs in Northern Minnesota – Hermantown and the now-defunct Eveleth-Gilbert (may it rest in peace) – through the 2019-2020 season. The star of the movie is our own Blake Biondi, in the sense that it shows him being very good at hockey, being nice, and then winning Mr. Hockey at the end and getting drafted in the epilogue. The supporting cast includes Hermantown’s coach Pat Andrews, two brothers on the Hawks, their parents, former Eveleth-Gilbert coach Jeff Torrel, two Golden Bears players, and one of the players’ parents. The movie also includes a cameo from Friend Of RWD Mark Wick speaking to Hermantown (I think, sometimes it was hard to tell everyone apart and also I wasn’t taking notes) about mental health and how being on social media for more hours a day is bad for your mental health. I feel like being on social media for less than 8 hours a day is actually what would be bad for my mental health, but I may be an outlier.

The movie is boring. That’s your tl;dr. Now, for the nle;wtrm (not long enough, want to read more).

There are spoilers here but also this is a documentary so reality is also a spoiler.

Most people I have seen comment on this movie have raved about it. This is not a reliable statistic as my sample is limited to other people who commented on Kevin Pates’s Faceyface post about it, but it’s also a key demo: people who are already enamored with the romance of hockey in the North Country. I actually used to be in that demo, but I’m post-romance now.

I’m not sure if this movie would be interesting to an outsider (non-Minnesotan). Some people will watch anything about sports, even reruns of the 1987 NIT semifinals, so it would likely be interesting to those people. However, this movie stacks Minnesota HS hockey up against Texas HS football, and then shows footage of mostly-empty arenas and an occasional fan. It’s a slice-of-life movie that never makes a point or has any kind of message. It doesn’t even get much into the history of the teams or the MSHSL. There’s not even a whiff of Bruce Plante or John Mayasich. It doesn’t talk about the impending merger with Virginia MIB (which wasn’t solidified at the time but was certainly a key topic) and how much those teams hate each other (I guess because we’re supposed to believe Hermantown is their rival?) There’s no narration, and it does seem like a bit of exposition and storytelling beyond the cinema verité-style interview snippets spliced in between practice footage.

There does seem to be an endless thirst to watch young hopeful men in their prime strive toward sporting achievements. This annoying person next to us who had to be scolded for using his phone during the movie asked a super long question that ended with a comparison to Hoop Dreams. I’m actually not sure he asked a question, he just said the movie was like Hoop Dreams. I mean sure, it’s similar to Hoop Dreams in that it is a movie about real teens playing sports. Clerks is also just like Casablanca, because they are both filmed in black and white and start with the letter C. To a certain subset of people, literally anything that shows young men with bright futures in sports will have them agog. It’s why the boys’ state HS tournament is so compelling – so many white kids with bright futures sporting all over the place! And maybe some of them had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps too!

There are two roles for women in this movie: mothers and girlfriends. We do see a teacher (I think) and a coach’s daughter for a few seconds, but mostly it’s just mothers and girlfriends. They even show one of the guys (I forgot who) going bowling with a girl he’s been “talking to.” (There’s also some kind of late-night celebration in the gym involving the hockey players and some girls wearing glow necklaces and doing a conga line around the gym, if someone from Hermantown could explain this it would be great.) There’s some footage of the Hermantown boys watching girls’ hockey, something I thought was really cool, but also went totally unexplored. Like, you couldn’t have two minutes of the side of Biondi’s face talking to someone off-camera about girls’ hockey, or found some footage of some girls at the local outdoor rink?

If you’re wondering if I asked about this during the Q&A, Reader, I did. I was informed that girls’ hockey has great stories but they’re not the ones to tell them because they’d have to be in the locker room. And yes, I get that, but all the footage of the boys in the locker room had them in their gear. It’s not like they were in the showers or something. They could still get their footage of someone throwing up in a toilet during “flu season” if they followed a girls’ team.

Despite focusing so much on men & boys during the movie, the moms end up stealing the show and having the most interesting stories. Jessica, the Eveleth-Gilbert mom, wonders if her son would have more opportunities if he lived in “the big city” and could be seen by more scouts or just be on a more successful team. I’d have loved to hear more exploration of the disparities between the former Range powerhouses and the Duluth schools, or the wealthy metro schools, but instead had to see a somewhat condensed version of the 2020 sections and state tournaments. I forgot Hermantown lost that year, that was a weird championship game.

We find out Lori, the Hermantown mom, is both chronically and terminally ill. (She passed away in June 2022.) Before this reveal, Lori and her husband reveal they worked opposite shifts so that at least one of them could always be there for their sons, a huge sacrifice even before you learn that they’re facing her terminal illness still trying to juggle this schedule. The most brutal moment captured in this movie is when Hermantown is honoring their seniors and their older son skates out with both of them. She tells him she loves him and in true teenage boy fashion, he doesn’t reciprocate. My heart hurts for the 2022 version of him, seeing that on film.

There are some quality moments in the movie, it’s not all horrible when it’s not interviewing the moms. There’s archival footage of a tiny Blake Biondi at a state tournament, as well as Coach Andrews as a Hermantown player, giving a totally jubilant stream-of-consciousness interview after scoring an overtime goal for the Hawks. There’s funny footage of the Hermantown guys towing one of their cars out of a snowbank, and Biondi getting chirped for his driving skills. The quiet Eveleth-Gilbert guy who also does Quiz Bowl gets crowned king of their winter dance. The Eveleth-Gilbert scoring superstar who did an undisclosed bad thing that was so bad it’s even against youth hockey rules gives an emotional interview about the end of his season while his dog barks in the background. That’s just not enough to make a movie on.

I think the real problem with this movie is that it feels too familiar (state tourney footage aside – that was a literal rerun). As a Minnesotan who has followed high school hockey my whole life (I was at the Cloquet-East game!), there are versions of every aspect of this film served up every season in My9 intermission vignettes, Clay Matvick anecdotes, and human interest stories in various print media outlets. I know that I hate everything other people love, so my opinion sometimes gets discounted (but seriously Shinedown is awful), but in this case I think you should listen to me: there’s nothing new or challenging in this film.

The Metamorphosis

6 September 2022

One morning, when Champ the Bulldog woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible yellow canine. He lay on his faux-fur back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his yellow belly, slightly domed and covered in short, pale-colored fur. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His legs, comically muscular compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper dog room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of sports jerseys lay spread out on the table—Champ was a college sports mascot—and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of a Sports Illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a hockey jersey and hockey skates who stood upright, raising a hockey stick that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.

Champ then turned to look out the window at the dull weather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feel quite sad. “How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense”, he thought, but that was something he was unable to do because he was used to sleeping on his right, and in his present state couldn’t get into that position. However hard he threw himself onto his right, he always rolled back to where he was. He must have tried it a hundred times, shut his eyes so that he wouldn’t have to look at the muscular legs, and only stopped when he began to feel a mild, dull pain there that he had never felt before.

“Oh, God”, he thought, “what a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen! Performing day in and day out. Pumping up the crowd like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there’s the curse of travelling, worries about making plane connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!” He felt a slight itch up between his eyes; pushed himself slowly up on his back towards the headboard so that he could see his face in the mirror; found where the itch was, and saw that it was between two deep black creases which he didn’t know what to make of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of his paws he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touched it he was overcome by a cold shudder.

Comrades, weren’t we all overcome with a collective cold shudder upon seeing this unexpected, unwelcome metamorphosis?

tUMD claims that the mascot was designed after this rendering of Champ, and I would agree that if the mascot actually did look like this, it would be awesome.

From the number of memes involving Winnie the Pooh and/or Regretsy-style fails, it’s pretty clear that the new Champ doesn’t actually resemble “Standing Champ.” It’s not even gold, it’s sort of buttery. The head is also considerably more cylindrical than either the previous Champ costume or the drawing. Instead of jowls, the new Champ looks like it has a mullet. I also don’t understand the mouth. It has both a cartoonish trompe-l’œil rendering of teeth and some very small “actual” canine teeth. The teeth are so small I only just noticed them while writing this post, and while I realize old Champ didn’t so much have teeth as it had tusks, at least it was clear what the concept was.

I’m curious if this switch from a jersey to this skin-tight Jersey Shore bro sweater look will be permanent, or if it was just for the reveal. I liked that Champ wore hockey jerseys and football jerseys and while I’ve never attended a pumpkin pushing game, I assume it wouldn’t be too hard to put on one of those. It’s very strange to see muscles built into this costume. Is this Champ on ‘roids? Will it start fights in fits of rage? Does it not need pants because it has shrivved its nards?

I know it could be worse. There are some previous incarnations of Champ where it looks diseased or deformed, and there are some other mascots in Duluth that are much more disturbing:

The existing Champ was pretty good as far as mascots go (although USAFABulldog doesn’t like the “hot pink mouth,” something I disagree with, as dogs have pink tongues), and I suppose if the costume was getting ratty it was probably time for an upgrade, but this was just weird. Unsettling. And also very annoying, because we’ve been banging on for years about getting a new gold men’s hockey jersey, and instead end up with a new gold all-purpose mascot. It’s like when you ask for a very specific clothing item for Christmas, and your mom goes to Kohl’s and gets something “similar” plus three other items you didn’t ask for which together come to $2.96 after Kohl’s Cash, which you discover when you try to return it all. Not that this has ever happened to me.

Ultimately, this is a mascot, not a sacred image of our lord and savior Hunter Shepard or something, so let’s not go hurling apples at it and dooming it to a long, slow, painful death as happened to Gregor Samsa, but we Dogs fans are perfectly within our rights to make jokes and memes about this to our hearts’ content. The only person I’ve seen actually like the change so far is Biddco, which only solidifies the absurdity of Yellow Champ. I’m still looking forward to seeing it in person, especially the strange tiny teeth. Maybe the sponsors of Smile Cam can put it under nitrous and yank those suckers out? That would be a great marketing opportunity. I’m sure to endear myself to the new AD with such brilliance.

Welcome to the 19th season of RWD, ya filthy animals.

A Cool Person’s Guide to Visiting Saint Paul

16 March 2022

After two years, the NCHC Frozen Face-Off has returned to its former glory (well, will it ever return to the glory of the year we dressed up as birds? Probably never, Miami is never making this tournament again).

This is what downtown St. Paul looked like on March 20, 2020, right before the evening semifinal should have begun:

Of course, it didn’t end up being “next year in St. Paul,” as the tournament was temporarily relocated to a garbage dump.

This year, the tournament returns to St. Paul, Capital City, home of yours truly. The NCHC has partnered up with Visit Saint Paul to come up with some very generic recommendations, but why cram yourselves butts to nuts at Tom Reid’s or get vomited upon by a UND fan in the Patty McGovern’s beer tent when you can take the recommendations of a cultural icon, me?

Without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in St. Paul is Moscow on the Hill. I went there for the first time with my friends from BC Interruption, and was enthralled by the atmosphere and the authenticity. And the tiramisu-flavored vodka.

Across the street in Cathedral Hill is Handsome Hog, which has elevated Southern food, a sausage gravy poutine, and so many kinds of whiskey/bourbon/scotch. I’d recommend this place to Whiskey Dave if he ever left his zip code. Handsome Hog’s executive chef is Justin Sutherland, who is currently on a billboard on I-94 because he’s on a TV show.

After you eat at either of these fine establishments, it’s a short walk down Selby to the Cathedral of St. Paul. You can stroll down Summit Ave and see the James J. Hill House and the other mansions, or duck off onto a tiny secret street, Maiden Lane, which always makes me feel like I’ve traveled back to the Belle Epoque. The former home of F. Scott Fitzgerald is further down on Summit (stop and take in the view from Summit Overlook Park before you turn!), and you can loop back to where you parked for lunch/dinner by taking Dale back to Selby, where you can stop by IDUN for on-trend clothes, accessories, and objects. Only a block away from IDUN, on Laurel, is Fitzgerald’s birthplace!

Slightly farther away, but absolutely worth a trip, is Taste of Rondo, in St. Paul’s historic Rondo Neighborhood. I loved the Avon Southern Chicken Sandwich (menu items are named after streets in the neighb, as are signature cocktails). A few blocks away, you can learn more about the history of the Rondo Neighborhood (a vibrant, historically Black neighborhood effectively obliterated by the construction of I-94) at the Rondo Commemorative Plaza, or at the permanent exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.

The Aaaahj and I had a mini-staycation in St. Paul a few years ago, where we visited the Minnesota History Center (at the time, it had a First Avenue exhibit, but you’re like 3 years too late for that), ate at Cossetta (not recommended during hockey weekends because it’s so busy, though you can get macarons at the pasticceria next door), then visited the grounds of the Capitol. I believe there’s a bit of construction going on there, but I do love the Capitol Mall. Please, North Dakota fans, do not insurrect.

Instead of going to Cathedral Hill, you could go down West 7th and start your drinking at the Summit Ratskeller. Pace yourself by ordering from the food truck du jour, there’s one there Thurs/Fri/Sat this weekend! Take a hike at Crosby Farm Park (might be a bit slushy but there are both paved and unpaved trails) or cross the river and visit Fort Snelling State Park – I love Pike Island but I’m guessing it’s either too icy or too sloppy right now.

For dinner, there’s nothing more apropos than Bennett’s Chop & Railhouse. They are huge supporters of Bulldog hockey, so you know they’re awesome. They have fancier entrees but I go there for burgers and sandwiches – the Juicy Juanita or the Chicken Asparagus Brie. On your way back, you can pick up a one of a kind gift for yourself at Center for Lost Objects. I need to own this shirt.

You don’t want to go that far from the X? Pas de problème. Tragically, you can’t eat at the iconic Mickey’s Diner from the Mighty Ducks, though you can eat at the other Mickey’s like Winona Ryder, which is also on West 7th, but much farther away.

While you can’t have breakfast at Mickey’s, you can try to get into Hope Breakfast Bar, in an old firehouse on Ramsey (the flat part of Ramsey, not the giant hill). During the pandemic, Hope did amazing things for the community; instead of focusing on takeout during the 2020 shutdown, they prioritized people experiencing food insecurity and provided students missing their prom with a free drive-thru dinner. The restaurant is extremely popular, so it might be hard to get in, though the pearl-clutchers from the suburbs can now visit their second location in St. Louis Park instead of quaking in their Rothys/Adidas shower shoes while visiting downtown so you might squeak in. I’ve had the Cafe at Tiffany’s and I MUST try the Banana Bread Latte.

That takes care of breakfast, but for dinner you should definitely try Degidio’s if you want Italian (PORCHETTA MEATBALLS, FRIENDS). Nearby, you can see one of the oldest houses in St. Paul at 454 Smith Ave; there’s another one between Tom Reid’s and Burger Moe’s, tucked away where you might miss it!

Tom Reid’s has great poutine, but believe me, it’s going to be packed. Instead of going in, take a walk down Walnut Street to Irvine Park – it won’t look like this but it’s beautiful all year, and it’s surrounded by cool houses.

Avoid the hotel treadmill by running along the Mississippi River – you can take Eagle Parkway to Upper Landing Park and access the Mississippi River Trail for a short run or the beginning of a weeks-long run to the Gulf of Mexico. You can do hill repeats on the Wabasha Street Bridge (beginner – and while you’re there, take the stairs down to Raspberry Island, loop over to Harriet Island, or stay awhile for delicious Mexican food at Boca Chica, a banana cream pie latte at Bootstrap, or a Horror Frost at Wabasha Brewing Company), the High Bridge (advanced – make sure to check out the overlook!), or Ramsey Hill (Murderhorn).

Venture to the other side of the X and walk through Rice Park (it’s Fan Fest-adjacent), checking out the Landmark Center on your way to Afro Deli on Seventh Place (I’ve loved this little pedestrian street ever since I saw Hamlet at the Park Square Theater in junior high) – order sambusas and whatever else you want, but definitely sambusas. They have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Around the corner, indulge yourself in Chippos (chocolate covered potatos chips) at Candyland – they also have something called “Butter Vanilla Shamrock Popcorn,” which is green, and for which I cannot vouch. The Wild’s practice rink is just across the street (the Tim Horton’s is gone, sorry) and Candyland has both a Snoopy and a Lucy, if you’re doing a Peanuts scavenger hunt. (It’s not within walking distance, but Charles Schulz arena is located in Highland Park, in the shadow of the iconic water tower.) Eclipse Records (the store, not the label) is just down the street, and while I do all of my own record shopping at Down in the Valley, I’ll always recommend supporting local record stores! Whatever you do, don’t let tUMD fan Brett the Scientologist suggest an audit at the nearby Church of Scientology.

There are gorillions of other things I could recommend (Union Depot! King Thai! Cecil’s! Purrniture! Kevin Pates’s childhood home!), and even more places I haven’t even tried yet (Hotel Celeste! Buttered Tin! St. Paul Hotel High Tea!), but this list should at least make you feel like one of the cool kids. (Naturally I didn’t recommend any of the place I’m going to this weekend, but I can’t give away all my secrets.) Enjoy, comrades!

Behind the Music: Waiting for Biddco

13 February 2020

By now, you have all seen the recent Fox 21 mockumentary, Waiting For Biddco. If you haven’t, welcome back, space girl!

But now it’s time to talk about what you didn’t see. I’m here to give you the dirt, the tea, the hot goss about what really happens on tUMD hockey weekends. And I promise you it’ll be more interesting than hearing about Biddy’s bidding company, which I have to say was excruciating and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

First off, despite claiming that he looks “totally stoned” in this photo, he is under the influence of nothing except the perfume of the woman in front of us at the women’s game. I’m not sure a documentary can really be true to its subject if said subject doesn’t have a White Claw in hand.

The car’s name is Wilhelm, and it is a Jetta.

For some odd reason, they chose to zoom in on Biddy’s ticket, so now everyone knows where we sit. So thanks for that I guess. STAY AWAY.

He got a 2 PM checkout time from the Superior Inn — it’s the little things that set it apart from other inns. Also if you look carefully enough, you can see the pattern of the bedspread in the background of certain shots… #easteregg

I feel like this keeps having to be said, but I am not Biddy’s wife.

This is an Anna Klein game-worn jersey, which Biddy bought in part because of the cool Minnesota patch with the star denoting Duluth’s location. Here, he was getting ready for the women’s hockey game, which was not mentioned at all in the mockumentary. Let me get serious for a moment and say that it really bothered me that they seemed to have no interest in showing that a “superfan” liked both the men’s and women’s teams. I feel like it was a huge missed opportunity to show that what makes a true fan is support for both teams, not just one team.

Also I have that same shirt. Frozen Four 2017, right before the #minimumeightpeat began!

It is a total dump! Also they don’t know how to plow their parking lots, so they can cram it with walnuts!

Translation here: “I am a huge mooch and I like UND fans who buy me drinks.” Fun fact: the bridge he is driving over is named the Bong Bridge, named for the inventor of the bong.

Now here’s Biddy reacting to a classic moment…

(Thanks to Ben @umdhockeygifs for the gif-ification)

…which I feel was best captured here

You never know what kind of celebrity sightings you’ll get at Amsoil Arena!!

After this, Biddy decided he wanted to change his mind and say his favorite player is Bender because he likes Futurama, but they wouldn’t re-shoot.

Ok look, I know I’m the star of this whole documentary, but we’ll get to that in its own post. I’d just like to clarify that right before this, they were playing Rush and I said “One down, two to go,” then went on to explain “I don’t dislike prog rock,” was interrupted by a near goal, and then continued my explanation.

I feel like there would probably be more usable footage if I wasn’t swearing so much.

For awhile I tried to remain neutral in the background but I got comfortable with the camera being there and I really could not take it when he compared a team that actually has championships to a team that doesn’t.

What you don’t see at the end of this video is the cut back to the live broadcast, with Dan Hanger being very Extra and wondering what Biddy will be like at 90, which frankly is somewhat frightening to ponder. I will be like 199 then, so I’m sure I won’t be doing much pondering on Biddy while I’m out there putting the finishing touches on my third Ph.D thesis on how to safely eradicate nuclear waste. Which is of course what I will be doing when I’m 199.

So there you have it, a look at a day in the life of Biddy (or, as true of a portrait that can be painted in the college football off-season, because it’s not truly a Biddy hockey weekend if he isn’t watching seven hours of college handegg), with special behind the scenes features from me! I’m looking forward to the directors cut, which will look something like this:

Escape from St. Cloud

19 January 2020

Now sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

Against my own better judgement, I decided to go to the tUMD – St. Cloud game on Saturday. I never go to St. Cloud, for various reasons including tUMD men suck every time they go there, many of the fans are on meth, and of course last time I went there Raboin’s dad went nuts on some tUMD fans.

The weather had already made travel somewhat iffy, and we decided not to buy tickets in advance and make a game day decision on whether or not to attend the game. I also thought the game started at 7:00 until… Friday night, when I just happened to see it somewhere. Whoops, that would have been a big mistake.

Once we determined that the snow from early Saturday morning hadn’t added any additional travel problems, we headed out. Or tried to, but it took forever to get the ice chipped off the car windshield, and then we needed gas, and then of course had to get coffee, so we were already behind. This is unsurprising, but in good weather we could have easily made up the time.

Instead, we dealt with semi-crappy roads, including some sneaky icy spots and one section where a state trooper for some reason decided to slow everyone down to 20 mph by driving down the middle of the road. We were still 20 miles from St. Cloud at that point, so we were facing another hour of driving. Fortunately that only lasted about ten minutes and we were rolling into St. Cloud only a few minutes late for the game.

I couldn’t remember if there was a charge for parking, but I assumed there was when I saw there was a large line of cars trying to get into one of the lots by the NHC. The line was still moving at an okay clip so we kept on going until…

It turned out that the parking lot was actually unplowed, and we didn’t realize that until we were already in the lot. And couldn’t go anywhere because of all the cars totally stuck in various places, and because the cars behind us wouldn’t back up. And then we got stuck trying to exit the lot. Because of course.

Inside, the fans and players and staff were wholly unaware of the post-apocalyptic scene in the unplowed parking lot. Cars abandoned haphazardly. Others stuck, completely blocking anyone from getting their own cars out. Everyone was frantically digging at their vehicles with whatever rudimentary tools they could fashion, or on our bellies digging at the snow with our own two hands. We were one conch shell away from creating our own council when a couple of liberators showed up in a pickup truck with a tow rope and took charge. They began the difficult task of determining which order to rescue the survivors, while others built snow sculptures in their honor.

We had just figured out a way to extricate one of the first vehicles from the Thunderdome, a silver crossover hockey mom-mobile, and the truck was in the process of pulling them out, when the St. Cloud staff finally showed up, driving their side-by-side/ATV/go-kart right where the truck needed to go to free the hockey mom along with Ralph, Piggy, and the rest. That was completely unhelpful, but at least we would finally have the proper authorities there to assist!

Or what actually happened, which was the go-karters told everyone we couldn’t park there, and then left. That was some real accountability. Once again, we were on our own.

I managed to help one tUMD fan get their vehicle unstuck from behind ours via some brute force, and then another crossover broke free and went speeding haphazardly down the aisle like a bat out of hell, stopping for nothing. I think it was called the SUV that wouldn’t slow down. A few more vehicles were cleared, and then it was down to us, “The Little Car That Was Really Stuck.” Not a great sign. We inspected the car for possible hookups, and finding none, I recommended we push it.

“Okay,” said Snake, the one with the truck, seeming skeptical. After all, the snow was all the way up to the undercarriage and we would have to turn right away to get around the truck parked next to us. “Maybe if we get it going, and you cut to the left right away, and then just don’t stop until you’re out…” And so the Aaaahj got behind the wheel, and we started rocking the car back and forth, and then it started to move and he gunned it and Snake yelled “GIV’R! GIV’R” because what dystopia would be complete without a Receiver of Memories and then we were free!

And then we got coffee and got the hell out of town, because the game was half over and we didn’t feel like paying, and that turned out to be the best choice of the night because tUMD men got shut out and swept, but we were already halfway home when that happened.

One day I will tell my descendants of the time we thought we would never escape the National Hockey Center parking lot, and they will listen, rapt, as we recount in hushed tones the horrors we saw while we were trapped, and warn them of the great peril that awaits them if they are folly enough to try to attend a Bulldog men’s hockey game in St. Cloud.

A Tale Told By an Idiot

30 May 2019

Yesterday, I finally renewed my season tickets, one day before the deadline. I don’t usually write about renewing my season tickets, because it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve done it, what, about ten times now? I can’t remember how long I’ve been a men’s season ticket holder now. It’s probably buried in the archives somewhere. But this year, I struggled with whether or not to renew my tickets.

I know that must come as a surprise. The men’s team just won back to back national championships. The program has never been better. I’m not in any financial strife. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, had I not caught a throwaway comment from Sandelin during a photo op with Governor Walz. He was asked about a White House visit, and mentioned they were trying to work something out.

I cannot tell you how quickly that sucked all the joy out of the national championship. You’ll recall how appalled I was when Amsoil Arena was host to a fascist rally last year, but that was simply the building. Anyone can pay the fee to rent it out. This is the team. The idea of seeing the team I’ve spent my whole life (and a good chunk of my money and time and heart and soul) following standing as a backdrop to god knows what kind of monstrous rant about one of his political opponents, or the media, or about — well, anything. Doctors “ripping” babies from uteruses after birth. His love for the dictators of North Korea and Russia. How rich he is. How great he is. How Totally Exonerated he is. Him him him him him. It’s sickening to think of. I don’t know why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to be a potential backdrop for an incoherent word salad of hatred and ignorance delivered by someone who is facing impeachment and/or criminal indictment once he leaves office, and I don’t know why an organization would ever want to take the risk. You think you’re going to the White House to be congratulated on an achievement and honored by the President, but instead you’re fed cold fast food and used as a prop.

I wish for the days when we had presidents who acted like adults, and who could pull themselves together and behave like human beings. Imagine if George W. Bush had used tUMD women’s visits to the White House after their championships as an opportunity to whine about how unfairly he was treated after the government’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina or to sneer at Al Gore and lead chants to have him jailed. I am sure many of the women on the team and staff had issues (to say the least) with some of his policies and may have had apprehensions about attending. But they knew they were not risking an unhinged rant full of monstrous lies and demagoguery. They knew they were not being asked there to genuflect to Dear Leader.

I’m sure there are people out there who wish for the halcyon days when sports weren’t political, while standing for the national anthem at games in taxpayer funded arenas, while cheering for professional athletes who are union members, while watching on-field/ice re-enlistment ceremonies and “hero of the week” honors that are always law enforcement officers or military members and never volunteers at homeless shelters or legal aid workers, while tearing up over the Miracle on Ice, while watching the Olympics in countries with horrendous human rights records…


Showing up to the White House and showing tacit support for this president undermines the efforts of people of color and other minorities who have been treated with deliberate cruelty by this administration. Red Sox manager Alex Cora chose not to accept the White House’s invitation in response to the abhorrent and anemic relief “efforts” in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy skipped a White House event honoring Olympians due to the administration’s virulent anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric. The Minnesota Lynx did not even receive an invitation. Accepting this invitation when people of color, queer people, and women have bravely stood up in protest of this cruel and inhuman administration is simply wrong.

There’s not much I can do about it, if the team and the athletic department want to go. Frankly, I don’t know why the athletic department and the university would support such a visit. They just lost a discrimination lawsuit; sanctioning a visit to a divisive president who is an admitted sexual assaulter certainly wouldn’t do much to build up the university’s credibility as an inclusive and welcoming institution. Last year, the vice president congratulated the team for winning the state high school hockey championship, so it’s not like the executive branch of government can even be bothered with the pretense that they actually respect the team.

All I can do is express how I feel to the athletic department with my words and my wallet. I waited as long as I could to determine whether or not the Bulldogs would be accepting the invitation or quietly letting it pass by due to scheduling conflicts (real or otherwise). The renewal deadline came and I chose to gamble that the visit will not happen.

When I tweeted about it yesterday, I got this response from a former player.

That’s nice. I renewed, so I suggested he redirect that money toward a charity and offered some options. Biddco pledged to match his donations, as did I, but we haven’t heard which charity he chose. It’s nice to know former players are keeping such close tabs on me!

What’s not as nice is what happened this morning:

Look. I am fully aware that most former and current players and staff think I’m a lunatic at best. It’s why I try to minimize my interactions with them. I’d like to maintain the illusion that I fly under the radar. I’m also fully aware that the majority of them run the spectrum from neutral to enthusiastic about this current administration and many probably relish the opportunity to bask in his orange sickly glow. I’m not interested in picking fights with anyone associated with the team (other than Bruce) and I certainly am not happy to call their attention to myself in this way, but I can’t pretend not to notice.

I didn’t expect confirmation from a player that I’m unwelcome in the Bulldog fanbase. And that’s perfectly fine if he (and others) feel that way. I suppose it’s good that I found out, in the long run. Maybe I can save $800 and cancel my season tickets order if this is the position of the team and the athletic department. I’ve certainly been critical in the past and won’t hesitate to be in the future. Perhaps there’s not a place for that in Bulldog Nation. I feel like a fool, sitting here in my cubicle full of Bulldog gear, after attending the Twins game on Tuesday honoring tDogs pre-game, writing on my fifteen year old Bulldog hockey blog, but I suppose that’s the cost of trying in some way to hold on to my principles and take a stand.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Obviously if they do announce a White House visit, I will be calling the ticket office to cancel. But now I’m weighing canceling anyway. It’s a lot of money, time, and effort on our part to drive up to Duluth for home games as it is; to know that I’m cheering on people who have such disdain for me they couldn’t just write it in their diaries or bitch about it to their therapist or even address me like a human being — well, that makes that drive feel longer, and the tickets feel more expensive, and the effort feel… not worth it.

I’m not going to pretend this diatribe is anything more than sound and fury, but that’s who I’ve always been, and that’s why the two or three or ten of you out there still read, isn’t it? I’m sure most people would be happy if I kept my mouth shut and let this blow over, and I probably should have, but it’s too late for that now.

Heroes and Villains

14 April 2019

It has been strange to watch the evolution of the Bulldog men’s hockey program. To go from 2011, when everyone was excited to see a team win their first championship, to yesterday, when we crushed the dreams of a team looking to win their first championship. (Technically we also crushed dreams in 2018, but the Potato Farmers only really care about football anyway.) The program has gone from hero to villain in less than a decade.

I. Freaking. Love. It.

I understand this indicates I am a truly terrible, rotten, soulless person, but we already knew that. So when I read things like “I don’t want UMD to win because of their awful fans, I’m just like

because I know those people are talking about me. I personally am taking some of the fun and enjoyment out of college hockey for a small subset of the fanbase. That’s almost like winning a second national championship, but in the sport of Sea Witchery instead of hockey.

I’ve read a lot about how lucky tUMD has been, as if that’s a bad thing. No one wins a championship without a lot of good luck. No one loses a championship without a lot of good luck, either. This program has certainly dealt with a lot of bad luck along the way. A puck hitting a seam in the boards in 1984 was bad luck. A disallowed goal on a phantom high stick in 2004 was bad luck. Missing the tournament on a single loss to Vermont in 2010 was bad luck. Maybe scoring a goal against Boston University in 2015 was bad luck.

But no one wins on luck alone. The best teams make plays that put them in a position to capitalize on good luck along the way, and to minimize the impact of the bad luck they encounter. It’s not lucky when a guy lifts a stick at the last possible second before a shot at a wide open net. It’s not lucky when a goalie makes a save on a breakaway. It’s not lucky when a player squeaks a puck through a tiny little opening between the goalie and the post. It’s skill, it’s practice, it’s hockey intelligence. Every team has good luck and bad luck in every game. It’s just amplified in a single elimination game, and the difference between a good team and a bad team is what those players do with the hands they’re dealt, the die they roll, etc.

And how do you define luck, anyway? It gets a little comical when people are trying to call everything that happens lucky, in order to downplay the accomplishments of this team. tUMD made the tournament by the slimmest of margins in 2018, but they won four games with skill and strategy, not by accidentally farting a puck into the net. tUMD didn’t have to play St. Cloud in the tournament thanks to AIC (somehow it’s assumed that if St. Cloud had beaten AIC, they would have had a bye into the championship game, as if Denver and UMass weren’t waiting to get a crack at them), but they did beat St. Cloud twice this year, and two of the losses were close. It’s not impossible to think that tDogs could have beat them again. Contrary to popular opinion, a team doesn’t have to beat every single team in NCAA men’s D1 ice hockey, or even every team in the field of 16. There’s no asterisk for not facing St. Cloud, or North Dakota, or whoever.

Now that we’ve gotten all the reactionary stuff out of the way, let’s talk about what really happened these past few days!

I didn’t go to Buffalo this year, so I had the new experience of watching the Frozen Four on television. It wasn’t great to watch on TV, but I also feel okay about the decision. I never felt any real pull to go to Buffalo, probably because I’m cheap, I like sleeping in my own bed, I had a lot of other stuff going on in my life that I needed to take care of (work, a trail race that ended up getting canceled), and a winter storm that cooked itself up practically out of nowhere. Obviously a lot of other people dealt with those things and still made the choice to go, so those are most just reasons/excuses. I suppose one major deterrent was the fact that I have actually made the drive from Minnesota to Buffalo in one day (it was actually Duluth to Buffalo), less than two years ago, and it’s not something that I cared to repeat.

Thursday I watched from home with just the Aaaahj and the cats, but Saturday we decided to meet up with MeanEgirl and go to a watch party. We tried to go to Bennett’s, but it was full of old people having dinner unrelated to hockey, and also the Vulcans were there when we pulled up. So we decided to head over to Tom Reid’s. Reid’s was full (especially because they had some kind of private party in the back room), and the Vulcans also showed up there (fortunately I escaped both groping and greasepaint), but the three of us (the cats did not come) set up camp at the Golden Tee game, which had good views of the TVs, a place to set our food, and a nearby rail to set our drinks (two for ones!). The bar was packed with Bulldogs fans, and it was the perfect place to watch the game.

I have never, ever, ever been so calm during a hockey game. Sure, there were a few moments of nerves, but overall, tDogs came out flying and they really didn’t look back and I could just tell they were going to win. All of the things we complained about during the season – bad penalties (ok there was one of those, but Krieger just got excited for a minute, I can’t blame him), losing face-offs, failing to clear the zone, mixed up coverage in front of the net – they somehow fixed all of those for the championship game. The Minutepeople never got a chance to establish their scary speed and sneakiness, which was key to their win against Denver (and likely to the other 30 or so wins they had along the way). I was pretty nervous to face an unknown team, especially after seeing their excellent passing and deadly power play. I guess maybe I shouldn’t have worried as much because tUMD is a better team than Denver (despite splitting the regular season with them).

Of course nothing will ever compare to the first win, or to an OT win, but I don’t need to compare those things. It’s not fair. Each championship has been incredibly special. I never dreamed that I would ever see my team display such dominance. I’m used to cheering for underdogs, scrappy upstarts that somehow claw their way into a great season here and there. I don’t even quite understand how to be a fan of a team that wins a lot, that wins back to back championships and makes the title game three years in a row and gets to play another year with a target on its back. This makes me wish I was enlightened enough to be a fan of tUMD women’s hockey back when they were in their dynastic phase and went back to back to back (could tUMD become the first program to accomplish 3peats in men’s AND women’s D1 hockey? Let’s make it happen, I am officially greedy).

This has been an incredible season, and a testament to the coaching and support staff for being the backbone of this program. Sandelin sets the tone, and Herter, Krause, Hoppe, Garner, Koelling, Nicklin and Hoagy (among others) carry out that mission, keep that continuity, and help the older players pass along the culture and the expectations that come along with being a Bulldog player. I thought it was telling that Parker Mackay told my friend Jashvina (of Men’s College Hockey News) that they didn’t want the freshmen to feel like they were left out because they didn’t win a championship. So many “traditions” seem to involve hazing of freshmen/new players, but here’s the captain talking about how the philosophy from the team leadership was to make the new players feel included. (Much better than literally leaving their freshmen for dead due to alcohol poisoning, not that any *northdakota* teams have ever done THAT.) I guess the best way to make freshmen feel included is to win another championship. I’ll look to next year’s captains (Tufte???) to make that happen again.

Congratulations on another championship, Bulldogs. Thanks for all the fun, agony, anxiety, rage, and joy you bring me every year, for reasons I can’t explain and don’t really care if I ever understand.

Remembrance of Things Past

18 February 2019

Last week was Old Home Week over here at the RWD World Headquarters!

It started last Tuesday. If you recall, I started this whole blogging thing back in 2004 by ripping off the concept of my friend’s Minnesota Twins blog, Bat-Girl. The writer behind Bat-Girl since moved on to writing real books instead of uproariously funny blog posts, and while we lost touch over the years, we reconnected last year when my friend Laura retweeted something from Anne into my timeline that caught my eye. My worlds collided. The inspiration for RWD, retweeted by the editor in chief of a super profesh sports blog. It makes sense – they both love cats, sports, and libraries. Last Tuesday, I went to the book launch party for Anne’s latest book, and because I am an extremely big deal, my signed copy was personalized.

My week of reunions and nostalgia continued once I headed up to Duluth. About a month ago, I got an email from venerated elder Puck Swami, informing me that he would be gracing Duluth with his presence, along with the Godfather and Let’s Go DU founder, DG. I was extremely excited to see them. They have been longtime Comrades of the Blog, and DG was the OG – the Original Gauntletter. If you are unfamiliar with The Gauntlet, that’s because I don’t do it anymore since I don’t like talking to people and also AIM is no longer a program. It was an interview feature in which I asked antagonizing questions of various college hockey personalities, including Dirty, Bruce Ciskie, and MeanEgirl.

I met up with DG, Swami, Franklin, and Smiley Dave (and also Biddy, Dan of the Week, and Mrs. Dan of the Week, but I see them all the time so it’s unremarkable) at The Sports Garden. I haven’t been to tGarden before a game in a long time; I think the last time I set foot in there was either for a 5K or for a Soul Asylum concert that I enjoyed at the time but found out later from Dave Pirner himself was kind of a [feces]show. But what better place to relive my misspent youth?

Smiley Dave, Franklin, ya fave, and the Godfather

And what better way to relive my misspent youth than with shots paid for by DG? That’s always a great idea, especially for someone like me who mostly gave up drinking several years ago. Wheeeeeeeee! But how else would we console Smiley Dave, whose luggage was lost and who had to procure an entire wardrobe, including the anti-stink underwear, from Duluth Trading Co.? They were all dismayed to learn it is not a local company.

It was also nice to relive the good ol’ days when tUMD actually beat Denver on occasion. Friday’s game was a pretty darn good beatdown once DU got their goal out of the way. And then, because I really wanted to show I could hang like I always could, I went out after the game, to Hoops (although I didn’t have anything to drink and we mostly went there to wait until our dinner was ready for takeout). Going out before and after the game? What is this? 2009?

I don’t really want to talk about Saturday’s games because I saw six periods of tUMD hockey and zero goals. I did take the DU folks over to meet Bruce, who they referred to as a “legend,” which I found puzzling. Now that they’ve met him, perhaps their perception has been adjusted. Other than Bruce, we had several celebrity sightings, including Derek Plante, Keegan Flaherty, Rob Bordson, Scott Kishel, Dean Blais (wearing transition lenses), Beethoven, Bill Watson, and some DU scrubs. While waiting for Bruce to make his as-timely-as-Axl-Rose appearance, a DU fan not in our group got extremely rowdy, started screaming “LET’S GO DU!” while banging on some metal, and shouting at Franklin that he was not an actual fan because… I don’t know, because he wasn’t also trying to destroy property? It was unclear. I was about to send my “Where the F are you” text to Bruce when he finally materialized.

During the women’s game, the Fan Favorite was presented (Rooney, obvs) and there was an extremely long post-game video dedicated to the seniors (I watched a bit but realized I could either watch the video or eat dinner, but not both). After the men’s game, we were told to stick around for a special presentation that I assumed would also be Fan Favorite and hoped would not be a long tribute video. Instead, it was a recognition of Sandy for amassing the most wins as a men’s hockey coach (this explains Blais’s presence but not his stupid glasses). Sandy looked even grumpier than usual, probably because his players failed to score any goals.

Despite tDogs going 1-3 and the double shutout on Saturday, the whole week was a blast. I was reminded of what college hockey was like during the Belle Époque, when people participated on message boards and wrote blogs for fun and road tripped and partied together. I miss that sometimes, but I also feel like the important relationships have survived the changing times, I’ve always got this little square of the internet to unleash my tirades on the world. Life was good then, but it’s great now, too.

FTSTFS 2018 Update

6 December 2018

Anyone else excited to see how pledging is shaping up? I know I’m like a kid on Christmas morning every time I open up my tracking spreadsheet and see there’s a new pledge. There was even a new pledge while I was writing this paragraph! I also know that once folks see how many other people are participating, they’ll be inspired to join in if they haven’t. It’s fun!

Unaware of what #FromTopShelfToFoodShelf is all about? Read here to learn all about it. Inspired to make a pledge? Here’s the form. And surprise! You’ve already contributed $5 to the cause, because I’ve pledged $5/participant.

Here are the amazing, generous people who have made a pledge so far, and the organizations they are donating to. There’s plenty of time to make a pledge! You can even wait to see how the weekend shapes up, and make a retroactive pledge by Sunday.

Spencer – flat donation of $64.50, $20/win, $10/tie, double donation if UNO sweeps to Open Door Mission
Lori – $5/goal, $10/win to Foodbank for the Heartland
Connor – $10/UNO goal, $10/tUMD women’s goal, $5/major by UNO or SCSU to Maverick Food Pantry
Jolene – $10/goal, $100/shutout to Together Omaha

Mullet – $1/goal, $5/win, $5/shutout, and $5 for a sweep to Open Door Pantry of Eagan
Anonymous – 1 package of TP/goal to Champ’s Cupboard
John – $1/goal by a D1 hockey team in the state of Minnesota to Pillager Family Center
Anonymous – $2.50/men’s goal (minimum $25) and “some clothes” to Northern Lakes Food Bank and Goodwill
Biddy – $10/win, $10/sweep to CEAP
RWD – $5/goal, $5/FTSTFS participant, 1 item/freshman goal to CHUM and Second Harvest Heartland
Rebecca – $5/goal, $10/point by her fantasy team to Northern Lakes Food Bank
Dan of the Week – $5/win, $10/Soucy penalty, $1/pledge retweet to CHUM
Wayne – $10 x total margin of victory, $5/Twitter argument I get into to Northern Lakes Food Bank
Angel – $5/men’s goal, $10/Shep shutout to Salvation Army
Ben – $10/men’s win, $10/men’s SHG, $15/Cates on Cates goal to Chicago’s Food Bank
Anonymous – $10/goal to Friends in Need Food Shelf

Alex (UND women’s hockey only) – 1 non-perishable item/point scored by former UND women’s hockey player, 1 lb of pet food/5 saves, 10lbs/shutout (goalie statistics include Maddie Rooney) to EGF Food Shelf and Circle of Friends Humane Society
Anonymous – $5/goal to Catholic Charities of Boston

Emily – $1/Gopher women’s hockey goal, $20/point from TJ Polglaze to Second Harvest Heartland and UMN Aurora Center
Melmac & Nezzy – $5/goal, $25/shutout to Western UP Food Bank

Joe – $3/goal against BU to Greater Boston Food Bank
Laura – $1/goal, $3/David Cotton goal to Greater Boston Food Bank
Adam – $10/women’s win, $15/men’s win, $1/each time the BC fan group says “Donna?” to Greater Boston Food Bank

Bobby Mo
Ashley – $3 and 1 food item/goal to West Hills Food Pantry and Light of Life Rescue Mission

Jeremy – $5/goal, $10/win to CEAP MN
Dave – $50 to his local food shelf
Erik – 5¢/save,$2/goal to Southwest Carver Food Shelf
GOHUSKIESWOOOOO – some complicated pledge I am not transcribing here to Division of Indian Work Horizons Unlimited Food Shelf, including letter of apology re: UND fans.
Tom – $10/men’s win, $5/men’s goal to Salvation Army
Neil – $200, $25/men’s shutout, $50 if the women upset UW to Catholic Charities of Central Minnesota
Heather (SCSU AD) – $5/goal to Anna Marie’s Alliance and Pathways 4 Youth
Mike – $100 to Feeding South Dakota

Lake Superior Circle Tour
Brandon – $2/even strength goal against the Lake Superior Circle Tour schools ($1/PPGA, $5/SHGA) to CHUM

Alan – $50/men’s goal to San Antonio Food Bank
Anonymous – $10/women’s goal to Second Harvest

Rob – $5/goal against Dartmouth, $10/win, $5 if the margin of victory > 3, $5/shutout, $50 sweep to New Hampshire Food Bank

Oswego State
Jen – $5/goal to Oswego County Catholic Charities Food Pantry

Caissa – $1/goal, $5/shutout to St. Vincent de Paul
Nicole -$1/goal, $5/shutout to Hunger Task Force
Drew – $5/goal, $5/win to Mom Helps

Jimmy – $2/goal vs BU to Greater Boston Food Bank

John – $5/goal, $25/shutout to Moisson Estrie

Mankato/Notre Dame
Andy & Cayden – $5/win, $20 if both MSU teams sweep,$15 if Notre Dame sweeps, $3/hatty to Second Harvest Midwest

All of Women’s Hockey
Gabs – 1 item/women’s player with a multi-point game, 5 items/shutout or hat trick to People’s Pantry