World Cup

Having spent hundreds on tickets and motel rooms and endured lots of windshield time in three trips between here and St. Paul in the course of 8 days, I figure I should make a couple observations on the World Cup of Hockey.

There can’t be much like an international sporting event. You certainly don’t get many chances around here to sit next to a group of Russians at the same time you’re sitting just in front of a group of Canadians. Likewise, it was fun to see just how much national pride and enthusiasm a couple thousand Slovakians can display (although the whistling they do to show disagreement with something can feel like a hole being drilled in your head).

Classiest display: The moment of silence before the U.S.-Russia quarterfinal game for the victims of the school siege in Beslan.

Ugly American (or obnoxious fan) moment: A tie, both during Friday night’s semi-final game against Finland. First, there was the slender gentleman in his late 50s or early 60s shown on the big screen waving his Finnish flags and enjoying the music, only to have some 200-pound+ muscle bound American come down and try to cover the guy’s face with his American flags and then act like he was beating up the Finn. Then there was the 20-something numbskull in my row who threw food at a young Finn a few rows in front of us who was exalting after his team scored the winning goal with about four minutes left in the game.

Best line (even if somewhat sexist): We sat two rows in front of about a dozen people from Canada during the U.S.-Russia quarterfinal (even though Canada was playing in Toronto throughout the tournament, not St. Paul). The Canadians partied hard and loud during warm-ups, before the game and during intermissions. But once the puck hit the ice, it was another story. One guy said to his girlfriend/wife as she was chatting with another woman during play: “Shut up, woman. They’re playing hockey.” She did. And that’s when their own team isn’t even playing.

Priceless: Much like the Frozen Four or an NCAA regional tournament, attending top-notch hockey games where the focus is actually watching and enjoying the games, not seeing how much you can drink before beer sales stop.

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