Last week, TSN analyst Craig Button wrote a story on his Hockey Bucket List of some of the most unique places in all of hockey, featuring some places familiar to all college hockey fans: The Beanpot, Yost Arena, the Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament, the Flood-Marr tournament.
Inspired by that, and this
Monday's Tuesday's Beanpot, which most would agree belongs on a list like that, we posed the question to our staff: What is on your hockey bucket list? Either an event they feel every hockey fan has to see at least once, or an event they really want to see once.
I've said it before, but my absolute favorite hockey event, and the one I'd suggest any hardcore hockey fan has on his/her bucket list is the NAHL Showcase. Eight rinks in near-continuous use from 7am to 10pm through an entire weekend is a marvel to behold, nevermind the incredible talent that has come through the tournament over the years. I'd throw a USA Hockey National Select Festival on there too. I still remember walking into the arena for free, sitting dead center ice and watching a young Pat Kane work his magic at one of those Festivals. Tough to do that these days.
As for my personal list? I'm not sure I have one. A World Juniors tournament would be really cool. I'm not a big NHL fan, but seeing a Game 7 would be a blast. But more than anything, I just want to see a great game, or watch a great story unfold. I've been to and covered a number of "big events"--Frozen Four, MN HS tourney, outdoor games--but some of my favorite games I've seen have been games one never could have guessed as anything special. I don't know when or where the next one will be, but I'll just keep showing up at the rink and hoping I find it.
I've been fortunate enough to see so many regular season games from almost every rink out east and a few out west, multiple Frozen Fours, regionals, conference tournaments, Beanpots, and some other holiday tournaments out East. On my bucket list would be a series at Ralph Engelstad against a NCHC rival or Minnesota when that series is renewed. I'd also like to get to a World Junior Championship and finally an ECAC Hockey Tournament in Lake Placid with some of the upstate and western New York teams in it to draw a great crowd.
I've been lucky enough over the past few years to knock off a few items off my hockey bucket list. While several remain (Besides experiencing and trying as a Westerner to understand the Beanpot, I would love to spend a year traveling and writing about going to as many college rinks as possible), the one that is best to have crossed off is attending an outdoor game. It was an event that for years my college friends and I had discussed that whenever it happened we would go regardless.
So when Minnesota played Wisconsin at Soldier Field in the Hockey City Classic in 2013 we all used the opportunity to meet up and spend a weekend in Chicago. None of us live in the same town anymore. Some are married. Some are finishing up school. One friend came in from halfway around the world. Being around one another outdoors in the Chicago cold and enjoying a hockey game the way we did in college is a new memory I cherish.
For my hockey bucket list, I'm going to say: the inevitable Flyers-Penguins Winter Classic at Beaver Stadium.
I've been campaigning for this one since they started the Winter Classic series. A mid-state matchup between one of the greatest rivalries in sports in the greatest college football stadium in the country is an event the NHL shouldn't have been able to resist, but they have -- giving deserved Western Conference teams time to shine instead. As a current Penn State student, I've witnessed first hand the hungry hockey market Happy Valley has, which has helped turned the hockey team into one of the top sporting programs to watch at the school. There are certainly a few bumps in the road -- can the 105,000-plus capacity be filled, are there enough hotels for media and fans, etc -- but it has the makings of an incredible experience that the NHL shouldn't pass up.
There are a few things on my hockey bucket list that I hope to be able to experience at some point. First off would be a Frozen Four. As someone who has been around college hockey for so long, I've been fortunate to experience a lot (outdoor games, conference tournaments, team road trips, etc.), but I've never been to a Frozen Four. Back when I was a freshman at Wisconsin, I couldn't make the trip to Detroit work to see the Badgers in the 2010 edition and I hope to have the opportunity to either attend or cover one in the future. Other than that, I'd like to go to the Olympics and World Juniors someday and experience the atmosphere of international hockey, and a Stanley Cup final game (hopefully one the Sabres are in, but I'm not holding my breath).
The Frozen Four is obviously at the top of my bucket list, so I'm beyond excited that I'll get the chance to experience my first at home here in Boston. As far as campus arenas, I've never been to Maine so that's up there along with Minnesota and North Dakota.
I also noticed a Twitter conversation a month or so into the season that sparked me to look into how many Division 1 hockey teams I've seen play a game live. My count was close to 40 at that time and I've added Colorado College, Penn State, Minnesota and Air Force this season. I don't have a record of every game I've ever seen as a fan or covered but I'm sure that number is not far off, if it is at all. I'll be keeping track of that from now on, so I hope the number ticks higher with this year's NCAA Tournament.