Friday, February 20, 2009

Going to Fargo

In a couple months, Hockey's Future is sending me to Fargo, North Dakota, a place that most Americans, especially those from warm climates, know just enough about to avoid. Actually, I volunteered to go. The World Under-18 Championships are being held there. It's a tournament that is virtually always in Europe, so it's an opportunity to see a truckload of the best prospects for the 2009 draft across many countries. I'm prepared for information overload.

I was thinking about the most far-flung place I've been to watch hockey in the past. I thought of four candidates. One would be Waterloo, Iowa, where I saw a USHL game. A small arena with a metal roof, it was the loudest building I've ever been in. But Iowa is quite civilized and this wasn't far from other cities so I'm going to say this wasn't the most far-flung. Another candidate would be Green Bay, Wisconsin. Despite having an NFL team, Green Bay is tiny, and far from anything else. I drove up there from Chicago to see Alex Kangas play when he was still in the USHL. When I got out of the car -- at the mall mind you -- the air smelled like cows. That's insane.

Another candidate would be Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A real industrial place with interesting geography, there was an awesome storm that rolled in as the Chicago Wolves got ready to play Game 4 of the Calder Cup finals against the Penguins. I watched it develop behind Larry Simmons' head as we chatted. As AHL cities go, WBS is separated by distance and geography, but since it's relatively populated itself, doesn't quite qualify as far-flung. It feels really far from life in Atlanta though.

The last candidate would be Columbus, Georgia, which used to have an ECHL team. This city is close to Atlanta on a map, but off the hockey grid. They used to be affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, a place you could argue is in the center of hockey. It was a very strange connection. When I would interview the players, it was as if the words were beamed out and read in an entirely different universe.

Fargo in April. It couldn't be that cold, could it? Nevermind. I know better than to say that.

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