Walking out of the small five-terminal airport and into the desolate, cold night, the stench of fresh air hit harder than the brisk breeze of early spring. Waiting 15 minutes for the nearest Uber to come pick us up allowed for enough time to let our surroundings sink in adequately. The American flag flying high above the driveway affirmed we were somewhere that no longer felt like the United States.
“So, this is Fargo, North Dakota?” my partner Chris said reluctantly.
“Never imagined I would come here,” I quipped back.
In fact, standing on that shoddy airport sidewalk was the last place I imagined myself on a Thursday night in March. The previous Sunday, when the Boston University hockey team learned its fate and was being shipped out to Fargo, I was met with frustration and disappointment.
“It’s not fair!” I thought. After all I was a senior and I wouldn’t be able to see BU play live again. I had covered the team for three seasons and would not be present at the most important juncture. To make matters worse, BU was playing North Dakota just 80 miles from the latter’s campus, so the outlook was grim.
On Monday, life returned to normal. Studying for an exam I had coming up on Thursday night, I was interrupted by a phone call from my broadcast partner, Chris.
“Hey, so I got this email, we need to meet up now! BU is sending us to Fargo.”
The brief exchange left me with more questions than answers. Upon talking with the dean of our college at BU and our professor Frank, we were being sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Fargo to broadcast the tournament.
With logistics taken care, we set out to Fargo, a city devoid of high-rises, traffic, and thankfully, wood-chippers.
As we got into our Uber to the hotel, our driver summed up our generalizations of this region with a strange introductory question.
“So, what brings you boys to Fargo? You like to drink ’cause there’s lots of that here? Not much here else really.”
Chris and I exchanged a shell-shocked glance before he hesitantly answered: “Well, yes, but we came from Boston for the hockey tournament out here.”
Safe to say, there was no more conversation during that ride. Thankfully checking into our hotel, preparing for a busy day Friday, and sleeping were all extremely smooth.
The next day began early for us as it was game-day. Still groggy from our nearly cross-country flight less than 12 hours ago, Chris and I awoke, showered, and grabbed continental breakfast before heading back to our room. It occurred to us that we had yet to look at our surroundings in the daylight so we opened the window.
Over the course of a minute, we witnessed a lynx sprint past our window, a jam-packed curling club across the street, and a barren wasteland of power lines and tall grass still yellow from winter.
With nothing else to do but head to the rink, we set off two miles away to Scheels Arena.
The game was one of the best things I could’ve ever witnessed. The cacophony of 6,000+ screaming fanatics clad in green, white, and black cheering on North Dakota was unlike anything one could ever imagine at a sporting event.
But the game. Oh, what an awesome game it was. Four-and-a-half hours of pure hockey action complete with a thunderous check that shattered one of the panes of glass, a double-overtime game-winner from BU, and an eight minute goal review that aged each of the arena patrons an extra eight years.
BU won 4-3. So we celebrated. After we got in the Uber back to the hotel, we informed the driver of our plan.
“Any way you can stop by the nearest packie?” we asked. Our driver obliged.
We drank, watched college basketball, and began prep for the next day’s game against Minnesota-Duluth. But when it came time to eat, we found a cozy bar called Golf City. It was a bar with golf simulators and people dressed in full golf outfits with fully-equipped golf bags were playing the night away.
The food was alright but the experience even better. And the boss, who ended up being on our flight home, gave us free drinks when we came back the next night.
The next morning, while eating breakfast we sat with one of the opposing player’s parents – to say it was a harbinger would be an understatement. That same player, Adam Johnson, scored the game-winner that night.
Leaving Fargo that Sunday morning as day broke over the Great Plains, I couldn’t help but think about the whirlwind week that was. An impromptu trip to Fargo might not be everyone’s idea of a weekend well-spent, but it certainly provided one of the best experiences of my life.