OK, so we finally are in the home stretch of the planning phase. Now the preparing and packing really begins in earnest.
Last night we attended the pre-trip meeting, an opportunity to meet some of our fellow travellers (a.k.a. crazed Wild fans) in a hospitality area at Xcel Energy Center, then were given the opportunity of remaining in a suite for the pre-season game between the Minnesota Wild and the Philadelphia Flyers, a game which the Wild lost, 3-2, in the shootout.
We have a very diverse group of 110 people travelling in three distinct groups; those, like us, who will get to/from Helsinki on their own; those who will travel via SAS (Scandinavian Airways System) between Minnesota and Finland; and a third group, who will fly Delta/KLM both ways to and from Europe.
They split us up into three bus loads (apparently) for all events, including the trip on Monday night (October 4) to Tampere for the exhibition game vs. the Tampere Lynx (Ilves Tampere); Tuesday's team practice and lunch at Hartwall Areena; the optional trip to Porvoo on Wednesday (my wife and I will not be doing this, we will treat this as a 'lay day' in Helsinki); the two games at Hartwall vs. the Carolina Hurricanes (Thursday and Friday, Oct. 7 & 8); and, most importantly, the all-important airport transfer on Saturday morning, in order to depart Helsinki and get back to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
We were also asked to fill out emergency contact forms (you all know why, if you're over about age 6) and were given a black book-bag style backpack with more pockets than any human being has a right to have. Even has a pocket in the padded shoulder strap itself. If I load every pocket on THIS thing, people might think I've developed apoplexy. This bag would definitely give the TSA people fits, if this thing shows up at the Lindbergh Terminal when we depart Wednesday night.
Already in this bag were the following items:
- an official puck, specially labeled for our group
- a Wild-logo Totes umbrella
- a scarf, with the Wild logo on one side and the NHL Premiere Helsinki logo on the other
We also received a list of who our 'team mates' were for this trip, in a notebook which also doubles as our itinerary, assembled in AAA TripTik style, sort of like a reporters' notebook. We were also given contact information, and the all-important luggage tag for our bag, for the various buses we will have to take during our six days in Helsinki.
We raised more than a few eyebrows, when we said we were only taking carry-on baggage (as we normally do, when travelling in North America) especially after someone asked me why we weren't checking baggage, I replied:
"There's no checked baggage on European trains."
They smiled, and wished us a pleasant trip.
(to be continued)