For my favorite moment of 2018, I decided to write about a game I went to, because everybody knows that there ain't nothin' like seeing some good moments in person.
So my brother and I were going to see some Phil Collins concerts on the weekend of October 20th. First concert was in Columbus, then in Minneapolis, then in Chicago. For this trip, though, we also made it a point to go to the Minnesota Gopher-Ohio State Buckeyes game at Ridder (the irony in Minny playing Ohio State, considering we traveled from Columbus). This required driving overnight from Columbus to Minneapolis, which was a crazy feat, but was it worth it? Well to make things crazier, we took the absolute wrong highway to get there. There's a highway in Illinois called I-90 (it's connected to I-290) and it is the worst highway I've ever been on. Tollbooth, after tollbooth, after tollbooth. And the best part is: you can see what they're spending the toll money on, and it’s quite less than impressive. It was pretty awful. The experience did, however, keep us awake perhaps. And the whole thing made the movie Wayne's World make sense, because we went through Aurora and we saw a huge plane descend above the highway. In Wayne's World, Garth and Wayne sit on the hood of a car watching planes fly over them, and that movie takes place in Aurora and such. Anyway, after some grueling hours, we made it into Wisconsin. We finally stopped at a rest area, slept for an hour, and then took off again and finally made it Minny. We went to the hotel, but couldn't check in till after 3, so then we just decided to head to the Gopher campus.
So was it all worth it? Was it worth the trouble getting there? So a week before the trip it hit me that I didn't know anyone on the OSU roster besides St. Louisan Jincy Dunne, Canadian star Emma Maltais, and the Chicago Mission’s Tatum Skaggs. So with that, I decided to check on the roster to see who was on it. So guess what? I noticed that Swiss Olympic goalie Andrea Braendli (Brändli) was on the team! I recall that Andrea would sometimes get the starting jobs for the Swiss team in small tournaments ahead of the Olympics.
So I decided to bring my Swiss Olympic Jersey along, which I won in an IIHF Twitter competition a while back. I had actually planned for Janine Alder to sign it first, as she was coming to play Lindenwood in the second weekend in November. But seeing a chance to get the jersey signed by Andrea Braendli on the trip, I couldn't say no. Also, I planned to ask the players in German to sign it.
So my brother and I get to the Gopher campus, and we go to Sally's Saloon, which is a pretty dang good sports bar-restaurant. Afterwards we head toward the Ridder, and on the way my brother gets pictures in front of the Theta Chi House, because he was in Theta Chi when he went to SMS (now known as Missouri State). He also wore his SMS hat/beanie at the game. So we get into the game, and immediately I see a guy I knew whom I met at the greatest sporting of them all: Women's Worlds (the one in Plymouth). I had actually forgotten about him, so good thing I saw him. I thought I hadn’t forgotten a single moment or person from Worlds. And I technically didn’t forget this dude, because I recognized him, but I didn’t remember him till I saw him. He said that Noora Räty tried to convince him to try to go to Worlds '19 in Espoo, but he was certainly unsure about that for obvious reasons—travel costs and such. Still not a bad idea by Räty though—suggesting that someone go to a Women’s Worlds is certainly, certainly never a bad suggestion.
So we go down to watch the warm-ups. Remember, I’m wearing my Swiss Olympic jersey of the PyeongChang Olympics, and I also am wearing a St. Louis Blues hat, which I ironically got from the Mall of America the past December when I traveled to Minny to see back to back Blues vs. Wild and USA vs. Canada pre-Olympic game at the Xcel Energy Center with a friend. So I wore the Blues hat at the Gopher-Buckeyes game because, of course, the Buckeyes had Jincy Dunne on it. Also because I’m a Blues fan, the unique hat was sold at that one Minnesota sports store in the Mall of America, so you can’t go wrong with that.
For the warm-ups, we watched the Ohio State side first, with the team rocking their cool illegal black jerseys. Then we went over to the Gopher's side. My brother started noticing the Gopher players were looking in our direction. Then my brother said, "They're looking at your jersey, dude!" I'm thinking, "Yeah, probably." You won't see a Swiss Olympic jersey in a NA hockey arena every day. And in these sort of smaller arenas, I suppose it's easier to notice stuff too. It ain’t even the smallest rink, but small enough to see a bunch.
Anyways, the game was about to start, and we're sitting in a spot where we have a straight shot view down the hall where Ohio State comes out. Andrea Braendli was standing right there in front, so I'm almost certain she saw the jersey at that point, if not during the warm-ups. I had mentioned to my brother that Jincy Dunne was from St. Louis: O’Fallon to be exact, so then the PA announcer also mentioned the O'Fallon part when he announced Jince in the starting lineups, and we cheered because of it.
So then we were watching the game, and every time Andrea would make a big save or something, I would yell, "Hop Schwiiz! Hopp Suisse!" just like the Swiss fans taught me at Women's Worlds. My brother would laugh every single time I chanted it. And each period, we sat on OSU's side to cheer on Andrea. We figured we had something going with my Swiss jersey and the Swiss Olympian. And keep in mind: the Gophers had not lost a game by this point. But yeah, I kind of brought my own storyline to this game, and had my brother cheering for Jincy Dunne, Andrea Braendli, and the Ohio State. Also, my brother and I were doing some "O-H! I-O" chants.
There were a lot of missed shots by the Gophers and/or post hits, but other than that, many BIG saves by Andrea. My brother kept saying, "They're winning because of your jersey." Of course, Andrea Braendli isn’t an Olympian for no reason. I hope that maybe if she saw my jersey, that gave her some bonus motivation, but Olympic goalies are generally hard to score on.
OSU ended up winning the game. It was quite the game to be at of all games. The OSU black jerseys were something else, and the fact that that they got penalized for them at the beginning of each game was unique. The issue with the jerseys was because the numbers on the back were essentially black numbers, with a red outline, on black jerseys. But the whole jersey thing made the game more fun than it already was as a game.
And the fact that OSU was the first team to beat the Gophers this year was pretty cool to see. The Gophers are pretty much like Team North America for the women’s side of hockey. They were still pretty good last year despite missing Olympic Centralization players such as Kelly Pannek, the Potomak Sisters (Pots and Pan line) and Taylor Heise wasn’t a freshman yet. I saw the Gopher team missing those players play against Lindenwood last year. But man, oh man, was it quite something to see this current Gopher team play. Not only that, but to see them get beat, by a team that has a St. Louisan and a Swiss Olympian. I love that Gopher team a lot, but I had to cheer for OSU for this one.
So after the game, we waited around to see if Andrea would pop up anywhere after the game. My original plan was to wait in the lobby, and I should have stuck with that plan because the locker room halls where actually accessed by the lobby. We waited around the rink area and didn’t see many Ohio State players, but it’s always cool seeing the families hang out. There was even one point where I tried to ask Liz Schepers’ sister something, thinking it was actually Liz Schepers (she had a ‘Schepers’ jacket on). Wrong person, deuuude. I was simply gonna ask her if she had seen Andrea around, haha.
Eventually, we decided to walk around and eventually ended up in the lobby. Before we left the rink, though, we saw Sophie Skarzynski down on her knees signing a handout poster for some little kids. My brother got a kick out of that because it was the first time he had seen something like that: players signing stuff for the kids! So then we go out into the lobby, and that's when I noticed the locker room hall was actually accessed through the lobby. Oops.
So at this point: we're waiting to see if Andrea comes out—if she does at all, because she may have already went out to the bus and we might have missed missed her. But then I see her come out of the hallway, however, she carrying a ginormous goalie bag and moving quickly to the bus. I did walk outside the front doors to see if she was going to stall, but she was certainly on a mission, so I went back inside. After Andrea put the giant goalie bag away in the bays of the bus, she ran back inside and ran back to the locker rooms (not literally ran, but you know, moved quickly), so I didn't ask for an autograph at that point. Also, at this point, I was holding the Swiss jersey in my hand, not wearing it.
I go back up to my brother, and he asks, "Why didn't you ask?" And I said, "Well she was doing stuff, she had a huge goalie bag and she was running." And at first he shook his head and said, "You gotta take more risk than that." What he said there got on my nerves, because he's not a big risk taker himself, and he knows it. But a few minutes later, he agreed that it was better to wait till Andrea was more settled.
Andrea comes back out, and she's walking at a regular pace this time, so I said, "Hey Andrea," and then I asked her in German if she wanted to sign my jersey. "Wurde es dir etwas ausmachen mein trikot zu signieren." I’m not sure if that was the proper way to say it in German, but it worked nonetheless. I think she responded by saying, "Absolutely." We went over to a box office booth to set the jersey on a surface. And she said, "Nice jersey," and such. She seemed pretty excited that she was about to sign an authentic Swiss Olympic jersey in Minneapolis, MN. Also, I realized she was still carrying something in her hand while signing my jersey: a basket of fruit and protein bars/stuff I think?
So that was pretty cool. So in the end, it was definitely worth it to go through all the trouble to get there, because this was just a great game, a great hockey event to go to, and it left me with a good feeling similar to the ones I had after going to the Frozen Four in St. Louis and Women’s Worlds in Plymouth.
So a few weeks later, I went to see Lindenwood play St. Cloud State as planned, and Janine Alder was in goal, especially with Emma Polusney out at the 4 Nations Cup. So I see Janine after the game, and she said, "I saw your jersey in the crowd, and I was like 'I cannot believe what I am seeing,'" and asked questions about how I got the jersey and such, and that was pretty cool!
So in the end, it’s pretty dang cool what becoming a big Swiss fan at Women’s Worlds the previous year has led to: winning a jersey in an IIHF contest on Twitter that no one else had participated in except for me (hard to lose, in that situation), and getting that jersey signed by two Swiss Olympic goalies so far. With Florence Schelling now being retired, I’m guessing we’ll see some good competition in net for the Swiss. We’ll see what happens in Espoo ’19—only 4 months away!