Jump to content
Hockey Wilderness
  • Minnesota Makes the Wild Special


    Image courtesy of © Matt Blewett - USA TODAY Sports
    Mikki Tuohy

     

    The State of Hockey. It’s a title that gets some pushback from the hockey community at large. Until someone experiences living in Minnesota, it’s hard to explain. Hockey is more than just a sport here. It’s a bonding experience, an education in sportsmanship, a beautiful combination of all of the best parts of sports. That’s why fans here are the most prominent supporters and the Minnesota Wild’s harshest critics. It’s a type of community foundation that makes Wild Hockey different.

    Hockey is an intricate sport when you break it into its elements. It’s played on ice skates at lightning speed. The puck is small and can be hard to track. Players can only use a stick. The nets are small, and the goalies are big. Everything put together makes it a beautiful sport. It might seem strange to call such a physical sport beautiful, but even the physical aspects add to it. There’s something about the juxtaposition of hard hits and violence with skillful goal-scoring and physics-defying edgework that is poetically exquisite. 

    Minnesota is a unique state because the poetic side of the sport is evident at all levels. Mite tournaments are well-attended by cheering families, trying their hardest to give the kids an authentic hockey experience. The Wild have done a lot of good work in supporting hockey in the community. Matt Dumba might not be a Wild player anymore, but even he is committed to Minnesota hockey and making it as inclusive as possible.

    The Minnesota High School Hockey State Tournament is a religious experience, drawing fans on a pilgrimage from all across the state. Whether the competitors are dynasty teams or first-time contenders, it’s a privilege for them to simply make the state tournament. Skating onto the Xcel Center ice and being broadcast statewide to ensure everyone can watch is an experience that every young player hopes for. No other state would fill an arena for high school hockey games.

     

     

    Beer leagues across the state are full of adults so enraptured by the sport that they’re willing to play late-night games in the only time slots available. Ice time can be a scarce commodity with so many teams vying for it. Being willing to play a game at 10 pm is a prime example of how much love and dedication there is for the sport, far past the age of organized sports.

    That same passion shows up for every single game that the Wild play. Before the gates open, the streets and neighborhood are filled with fans, ready to cheer. There is a crowd at every door, waiting for the gates to open. The excitement is palpable. The Xcel Center is always filled past capacity for Wild games. The air in the arena is electric when the lights go down and the opening light show starts. 

    Wild players and coaches alike have named the fan base as one of their favorite parts of playing in Minnesota. In the Straight from the Source podcast, Nicolas Deslauriers said that having the Minnesota fans on his side was “something special” after admitting to hating it as an away player. Filip Gustavsson was so moved by the standing ovation he received that he couldn’t focus on his interview with Kevin Gorg. 

    In a 2021 interview after the first game back from the pandemic with a packed crowd, Dean Evason said, “It’s so exciting to have fans back, the whole league, the whole world is excited to have people back in stadiums, but our fans were absolutely phenomenal.”

     

     

    The reason the Minnesota Wild are special is because they appreciate how integral Wild fans are to their success. Every team has cheering fans, and a lot of them can fill a stadium. But there is an undercurrent of passion that ripples through the Wild fan base that isn’t easy to replicate. 

    It’s the pride felt during the Wild’s anthem because it mirrors how Minnesotans were raised. It’s the “Let’s Play Hockey” that starts every game, reminding fans to drop their stress at the door and focus on the love of the game. It’s the willingness to cheer so loud that fans lose their voice the next day, and their hands are sore from clapping. It’s for everyone who sticks around until the very end, win or lose, because they know a hockey game can turn on a dime. 

    Mason Shaw channeled that passion when he did the “Let’s Play Hockey” call before Game 3 against the Dallas Stars last spring. “The Xcel Center,” he said. “Home of the Wild. Home of the State of Hockey. And home of the best damn fans in the league.” It’s no wonder the Wild crushed the Stars 5-1 that night.

     

     

    In the words of the Wild Anthem: “The game’s in our blood and our blood’s in the game. Lay us down under a frozen pond. … A big blue line runs around our state. A line that can’t be crossed. The day they try to take this game is the day the gloves come off.” 

    So say it with me: Let’s Play Hockey!

     

    • Like 1

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    Very nicely said. Thank you. Having lived in so many different states/countries I can attest to the difference in fans in Minnesota. (not counting the three women sitting behind me at the last game I went to. Sorry, I did not need to hear about your sex life or experience your phone conversations) It is different here. The passion is palpable. 

    • Like 1
    • Haha 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I'd just like to mention, maybe even plug a sister sport too. Yes, you see all the leagues and players playing in beer leagues at 10pm. That happens all over the country to some extent.

    Broomball is the close sister to hockey. I was first introduced to it playing in a youth group, a very casual game. Next, in highschool we actually learned how to play and the rules. I played goalie on a nice crisp Minnesota morning and got clocked in the head (no helmets) at about 10 degrees. It hurt after going in from the outdoor rink and had my face thawed. And, that was back in the day when PE really meant physical and education, not like now where it's essentially recess.

    When I moved to Carolina, we had a small league of broomballers here. Did you know there are National Championships? We sent a team several times, and every other year it was played somewhere in MN. At least half of the teams entered were from MN. The elite teams were from there, with the exception of Barrie's Tavern which was a collection of guys from all across the country playing on what is, essentially, a travel team. 

    While this post is about hockey, since broomball is based generally on the hockey rules, it also shows the passion of the fans. In MN, it is generally insulting not to know how to skate, yet many people don't. In the south, my friends didn't know how to skate, so how do you introduce some sort of hockey to them? Broomball did it, it didn't require the skating or all the equipment, but they got to feel the joy of being on the ice and playing the loose strategy of most hockey games. 

    It was a joy to take them to the Nationals, and to let them see what the area was like and the amount of indoor rinks in the area. I can tell you they were impressed. We had several tournaments in our area, and the Flames helped us out a lot by bringing us into the enhancements from the game. But, there was also an attitude they brought, one that was always helping. It's probably that attitude that I miss the most, whether it was a generational thing or a regional thing. I'm not sure, but it's something I don't typically find in this area among natives.

    • Like 2
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Nice write up. Looks like we are about 1 month away from NHL training camps starting. Hopefully the Wild can put together another good year and enter the playoffs with all their guys healthy for a change, particularly JEE and KK97.

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    4 hours ago, mnfaninnc said:

    I'd just like to mention, maybe even plug a sister sport too. Yes, you see all the leagues and players playing in beer leagues at 10pm. That happens all over the country to some extent.

    Broomball is the close sister to hockey. I was first introduced to it playing in a youth group, a very casual game. Next, in highschool we actually learned how to play and the rules. I played goalie on a nice crisp Minnesota morning and got clocked in the head (no helmets) at about 10 degrees. It hurt after going in from the outdoor rink and had my face thawed. And, that was back in the day when PE really meant physical and education, not like now where it's essentially recess.

    When I moved to Carolina, we had a small league of broomballers here. Did you know there are National Championships? We sent a team several times, and every other year it was played somewhere in MN. At least half of the teams entered were from MN. The elite teams were from there, with the exception of Barrie's Tavern which was a collection of guys from all across the country playing on what is, essentially, a travel team. 

    While this post is about hockey, since broomball is based generally on the hockey rules, it also shows the passion of the fans. In MN, it is generally insulting not to know how to skate, yet many people don't. In the south, my friends didn't know how to skate, so how do you introduce some sort of hockey to them? Broomball did it, it didn't require the skating or all the equipment, but they got to feel the joy of being on the ice and playing the loose strategy of most hockey games. 

    It was a joy to take them to the Nationals, and to let them see what the area was like and the amount of indoor rinks in the area. I can tell you they were impressed. We had several tournaments in our area, and the Flames helped us out a lot by bringing us into the enhancements from the game. But, there was also an attitude they brought, one that was always helping. It's probably that attitude that I miss the most, whether it was a generational thing or a regional thing. I'm not sure, but it's something I don't typically find in this area among natives.

    I've been watching hockey years before Minnesota even had a team. Hockey IMO is the best sport in the world, comprised of the best conditioned athletes. Having said that, I have to admit I was probably the best ankle skater in the State of Hockey. So I played broomball in a men's league for over 10 years, indoors and mainly outdoors. In the beginning we played with 8 players on ice and that was quickly changed to 6, to more reflect hockey. Broomball more than satisfied my need for playing a game similar to hockey and I highly recommend it. I will add that Bandy was also popular back then. I think it originated in Europe and was played with ball and hockey stick on a very large sheet of ice. Ankle skaters need not apply.

    • Haha 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    It’s still unbelievable to me that the North Stars were moved to place that can’t make ice outdoors and we’ve been relegated to most mediocre expansion team ever.  Sad, really.  Some of my earliest hockey memories were watching the North Stars.

    The fans here are phenomenal.  The most knowledgeable and dedicated fanbase this side of the Canadian border deserves better. it’s largely been an unsuccessful franchise that’s played one of the most bland and boring styles of hockey in the NHL since it’s inception.  My son is a squirt and my daughter is a mite.  Both nuts about hockey.  They couldnt care less about the Wild.  Hopefully that changes shortly.  But. It would help if they gave them something to get excited about. 

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...