By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Our thermometers may not climb above zero at all on New Year’s Day, when thousands of fans are expected to pack Target Field for an outdoor hockey game.

The Minnesota Wild will take on the St. Louis Blues in Saturday’s Winter Classic. It’ll likely be the coldest NHL game of all time.

“If you’re a fan coming to the game, bring blankets,” said Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer. “Bring everything you need to stay as warm as you possibly can.”

Mayer says extra medical personnel will be on hand at Target Field, and staff are being told to keep an eye out for people having a tough time in the cold.

“Those from Minnesota are used to coming out in cold weather,” Mayer said. “This is an incredible stadium for cold weather. There are so many radiant heat areas.”

Dr. Brad Nelson, one of the Wild’s team doctors, says frostbite is the biggest concern for both fans and players.

“Exposed areas of skin become painful,” Nelson said. “They may feel tingly or prickly. As tissue damage worsens with freezing, skin may become discolored. It can be hard and waxy.”

Players and coaches at least get heated benches during the game.

Some fans may turn to alcohol to help confront the cold, but even that should be done with more caution than normal.

“There are some physiological effects of the alcohol that make you prone to frostbite and hypothermia,” Nelson said. “It also could impair your judgement and you may not realize you have frostbite.”

In addition to the game, Thomas Rhett will play an intermission concert and there’ll be pond hockey, ice fishing and a lumberjack competition during breaks too.

Hennepin Healthcare told WCCO it’s treated at least four patients this week for injuries from the cold.

On the COVID front, the NHL says both the Wild and Blues are in good shape with their players’ health.

Jeff Wagner