"What are you supposed to wear to a hockey game?" Ali asks as she bursts into my room to look at herself in my full-length mirror.
"I don't know. I've never been to one, but I would assume something warmer than that," I tell her as I internally question her choice of wearing a crop top to an ice rink.
"Well, you look nice," she compliments as she catches my reflection in the mirror behind her.
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to wear, but I want to look somewhat put together when I meet Marc and Eli's parents. I opted for a maroon mock neck sweater with my tight black jeans, layered with my camel colored duster jacket. I was going to pull my vans on but thought I should look a little nicer, so I settled on my black ankle boots. I don't have any school gear, so I'm hoping the maroon of my shirt is enough.
"You nervous?" Ali asks as I follow her back into her dorm to change.
"A little," I tell her as I pull a cream-colored sweater from her closet and hand it to her to switch into. She pulls off her crop top and swaps it for the sweater, looking much more prepared to sit around an ice rink for a couple of hours.
"Don't be," she reassures. "They're going to love you. Both of their boys are obsessed with you, so I'm sure they will be too."
"Thanks, Ali," I say as I give my friend an appreciative smile. "But, they're going to love me less if I miss their son's first game. So, let's go. We are running late," I tell her as I grab her purse off the desk and open her door, urgently ushering her out.
Marc was right. The arena is packed already. I knew we were running a little behind, but we are still here fifteen minutes before the puck drop. A crowd of deep red and gold swarms around us as we try to enter the rink, and I can't believe how many people are here already. This town truly is all about their hockey.
A few random spots of purple catch my eye in the crowd, but the sea of maroon and gold engulfs the Northeastern fans.
"Do you see Marc?" Ali asks as her little body dips around, standing on her tiptoes, trying to find our friend.
"I don't," I tell her, having a much easier time seeing into the crowd due to my height. Marc had texted me the location of his seats, but I can't seem to find him in the audience. "Let's just sit up there," I suggest as I point to a pair of seats that are somewhat close to us and not in the rowdy student section, though they are next to it.
The seats around us quickly fill as more and more Minnesota fans enter the arena. I'm still shocked that this many people would come to a college preseason game. I'm quickly starting to grasp onto the pressure that Eli feels by being on this team and being their star player, not to mention their captain.
"Is Maddison number thirteen?" Ali asks.
"Yeah, he is. How'd you know?"
"Because most everyone in that student section is wearing a number thirteen jersey. And a lot of the rest of the crowd is too," she says as points out Eli's number peppered throughout the stadium.
"Damn. I didn't realize it was going to be like this. I mean, I heard he was good, but this is wild," I say as I eye the crowd, spotting Eli's number repeated over and over.
I'm glad Eli has fans, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intimated by just how many people love the guy. I knew he was popular, but this is more than I expected.
My phone dings in my lap, and Marc's name flashes across the screen.
"Where are you?" He asks.
"We just picked a random spot. I couldn't find you. I can't believe how packed it is."
"Very. I'll meet up with you after the game." I let him know.
The arena lights dim as shrieks and shouts surround us while the red and yellow strobe lights dance across the ice. The music slowly creeps up as the announcer welcomes the crowd. The Northwestern hockey team is on the ice for warmup, but you can only spot them through the darkness when a strobe light flashes over their end of the rink.
"Alright, U of M fans! We've been waiting all summer for this! Please welcome your University of Minnesota Golden Gophers!" The announcer booms over the speaker system as the team begins to spill onto the ice while the music and shouts rise in volume.
I keep my eyes peeled for Eli's jersey. Number thirteen is the last one to leave the player's tunnel and step onto the ice, and the crowd stirs when he does.
"There he is!" Ali yelps beside me, nudging me as if I hadn't already spotted him.
He's pretty hard to miss. I mean, he's huge. I know he's a tall guy coming in at'4", but with the added inches from his skates and the bulk from his pads, he looks like a giant compared to most other players on the ice. From what I've learned about hockey, someone with his build would most likely be a defenseman, but Eli is a forward. And apparently a pretty damn good one at that.
After the national anthem, the starting five guys of each team line up on the blue line as they're being announced. The Northwestern fans made a bit of noise, but nothing compared to the howl from the crowd as U of M's players are introduced.
"Last, but certainly not least. The university's all-time high scorer, your captain. Ladies and gentlemen, Eli Maddison!" The announcer projects as the crowd erupts in shrieks and screams. Girls around me are literally squealing as Eli skates forward, gives a quick wave, and returns to the blue line next to his teammates.
This is crazy. I've never heard an arena at this noise level. The crowd was loud as the other players were being announced, but it was deafening when Eli's name was called. Marc was right. He is a local celebrity.