They have their own security guards.
They have their own ushers.
They are the subject of planning meetings at the Xcel Energy Center during the first week of March. They are “216.” Section 216 to be exact. Section 216 is the brash, trash-talking group of hockey fans who let everyone at the Xcel know who they are without hesitation but with plenty of back talk.
They’re hockey players whose teams didn’t make the state tournament. They make their members swear an oath of allegiance to loving attractive girls in yoga pants, showing respect for the underdog programs and never being afraid to say if they love or hate a team.
“My junior year, I was just wandering around and I saw them,” said Luke Fleischhacker, who is the second-year captain of 216. “Last year, during the Moorhead game is when we got big. It’s when we came together as a section.”
Student sections are a part of any high school sporting event. Yet at the Minnesota state tournament, it does go to a higher level.
There are schools who go for the jugular with their chants. We’ve all heard it before. The public schools tell private schools they’re “Daddy’s Money” while a private school will respond by telling a public school they’re a “Waste of Taxes.”
Here’s where 216 comes in. They do not cheer for one particular school though they have their favorites. If you come after one of their favorites, they’ll come after you too.
“We’re known in the state,” Fleischhacker said. “I think between our Facebook and Twitter, we have 2,500 fans.”
Assistant captain and Hopkins senior Jimmy Kortum said when the group started its Twitter account, it picked up 500 followers in one day.
Kortum and Fleischhacker are the embodiment of 216 and what it stands for. Kortum’s season at Hopkins ended in the section rounds but he’s still found a way to be a part of the tournament by actively leading a section of hundreds in chants.
Fleischhacker, on the other hand, is a college student who admits this was his last year of being involved in the section. He’s 19 years old but came across a fellow 216 member who admitted to being 20.
He’s an example of how it all started. He was walking around, heard the crowd and decided to join in the fun only to become its leader. Even the way he looks is an image one might have of the seciton.
“We’re not violent,” said Fleischhacker, who has a mohawk, tattoos on both forearms and was wearing a Jack Daniels shirt at the time of the interview. “People think we are but we’re not.”
Kortum said a fight has never broken out in 216 but there have been other sections where it has happened.
He colloquially recalled a fight last year when a guy he said looked like “Jesus” was talking a bit too much and got into it with a few people.
Kortum said he lost the fight.
“It’s never happened to us,” he said about being challenged to a fight. “But it’d be cool if it were to happen.”
So what makes 216 so polarizing?
It’s simple. They have a checklist they abide by when it comes to finding a school to cheer for.
Fleischhacker said the team has to be an underdog. They must have cute girls but, more importantly, they cannot have a player the rest of the group hates.
“I hate Kyle Rau,” he said. “You have no idea how much I hate him.”
There’s no actual beef between the two. It’s not like Rau stole his honey or his bike when they were kids.
It goes back to how Eden Prairie won a state title last season and Rau was the story of the tournament. Rau, now at Minnesota, started the season in the USHL and then came back to high school to win a state title by scoring the game-winning goal.
Rau’s sojourn was talked about endlessly by many people and the boys in 216 had enough.
So that’s why there’s the disdain for Rau. Even though Rau is gone.
“Doesn’t matter,” Fleischhacker said, “I still don’t like him.”
The relationship the Xcel Center has with 216 is multi-faceted. Following a game on Friday, the section was actually booted out of the building for a chant and told to not return for the rest of the night.
Yet on Saturday afternoon, there were members of the section hanging out with Wendy, who is a security guard at the Xcel.
Both Fleischhacker and Kortum speak about Wendy with love. They talk about how she understands they are just kids trying to have fun. She polices them. She lets them know what to say and not to say but more than anything, she treats them with respect.
The respect is mutual.
“Wendy,” Fleischhacker says with a soft tone, “That’s our girl. We love her so much.”
Then they talk about the other ushers that are really cool about what they do. They’ve even mentioned how ushers have helped them talk trash more efficiently without crossing too many lines.
Though crossing the line is what they’re known for.
“We were talking to them one day about a few things,” Fleischhacker said. “Then they told us that they have meetings where they talk about us and what we do. When I heard that I thought that was epic, because it shows how far we’ve come.”