MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With the Minnesota Wild in St. Louis, 562 miles separate them from their fans. But in downtown St. Paul Thursday, playoff excitement still had that home-ice feel.
“This is where you go,” St. Paul resident Linda Eichinger said. “Hockey fans, we’re together and we’re going to celebrate them no matter if they’re in town or away.”
Team loyalty took center stage in St. Paul’s Rice Park. Throw in free food, a dance with Wild mascot Nordy and a day dedicated to the playoff team — fans have no excuse but to be game ready.
Gov. Mark Dayton even proclaimed Thursday “Go Wild Day” in Minnesota.
“I think the excitement is at probably the highest level it’s ever been at because this is the best team that the Minnesota Wild have ever had going in to a Stanley Cup Playoffs,” former Wild player Wes Walz said. “Just seeing this many people in Rice Park gives you really a sense of where the community is at with this hockey club.”
But this was about preparing for a long post-season run. After all, three teams separate the Wild from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
“I think they got a great chance against St. Louis,” Eagan resident Larry Allen said. “It’s going to be a really physical game and series, but I think they’ll going to do really well.”
Rallying the fan base is not difficult in the post season. In St. Paul, it seems the toughest opponent can’t stand in the way.
“We are what everyone else is afraid of,” Eichinger said.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center. The first 1,000 fans will get a free rally towel. Fans can also pick up a chocolate bracket bar in the Hockey Lodge, and there’s even a chance to win a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.