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Updated: October 4th, 2013 10:34am
P.J.R.: In Minnesota, hockey fans win the prize for pomposity

P.J.R.: In Minnesota, hockey fans win the prize for pomposity

by Patrick Reusse
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Minnesotans of long standing who allege themselves to be major soccer fans are humorous. This is particularly true with those claiming to have a favorite team in the English Premier League.

My belly jiggles like a bowl full of jelly when I hear a local say, "I'm a fan of Tottenham Hotspur.''

Sure you are, pal. Do you need that feeble of an excuse to drink a Bloody Mary on a Saturday morning at Brit's?

As I said, these folks are funny, and a touch pretentious, but not really pompous.

In Minnesota, the bona fide pomposity is reserved for hardcore hockey fans.

They actually believe this is the state of hockey, even if puck chasing is a poor stepchild to football when it comes to popularity, and when hockey might not beat out the other winter sport, hoops, for interest on a border-to-border basis.

The puck heads are beauties. If hockey isn't all you care about, then you aren't entitled to have an opinion on the subject.

I grew up in southwest Minnesota in the 1950s. It might as well have been downstate Indiana. Hockey was located in clusters in the Twin Cities, in the Duluth area, on the Iron Range and in northwest Minnesota.

Hell, they didn't have high school hockey in Brainerd, or in St. Cloud, back then. So, yeah, the sport has grown immensely, as has most every sport as the population has expanded.

Example: The Twins led the American League in attendance for the decade of 1961-70 with an average of 1.4 million per season. This year, the Twins sold 2.4 million tickets and there's big concern over the drop in attendance taking place at Target Field.

There are many more Minnesotans to support and participate in more activities. Hockey is one of those - and far from the end-all in Minnesota.

The Wild opened a 13th season in St. Paul on Thursday night. The news earlier in the day was that Jason Pominville, a veteran wing acquired from Buffalo for a significant ransom late last season, had been signed to a five-year, $28 million extension.

There are numerous hockey brainiacs claiming the hidden reason behind the trade was that Pominville and Thomas Vanek became good friends playing in Buffalo - and thus Pominville's presence makes it almost a certainty that Vanek will sign with the Wild as a free agent this summer.

I've had great fun with this idea; not so much that Vanek could wind up here, but that signing the hero of the Gophers' 2003 national title team 16 months later figured in the Wild's thinking for the Pominville trade.

Logic matters not to Twin Cities hockey fans.

They won't be deterred in their excuse-making for the Wild (or the Gophers). The Vanek scenario became their popular justification for the trade, when Pominville was hurt, and the Wild was bounced quickly in the first round of the playoffs, making the inititial result of the Buffalo deal an abject failure.

And if you don't embrace the excuses, the responses are always the same: You're clueless about hockey.

Those came in again on Thursday, after Mackey and I led off the show with Wild topics: expectations for the season, the new Pominville contract and the Vanek theory.

Mackey's a buy-in that Vanek will be here next summer ... based more on the fact that he lives here in the offseason and that his wife is from Minnesota than being palsies with Pominville. I'm in the maybe, maybe not category on Vanek, which meant that my e-mail and Twitter feed brought the usual:

"Stick to baseball, Reusse. You don't know anything about hockey.''

I know enough to have opinions ... several of which have turned out to have more validity than those of the pompous puck heads.

Who told you before the start of the 2012 playoffs that the L.A. Kings were going to win the Stanley Cup?

P.J.R., that's who. I rest my case.


Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse
In this story: Jason Pominville