SBD/July 6, 2012/Franchises

Wild's Free Agency Splash Considered Necessary To Re-Energize Fan Base

Leipold as late as Monday night feared the team could not make the signings
The Wild's signing of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter Wednesday is "immediately energizing a franchise that was finally starting to see some apathy set in among its fans," according to Jon Krawczynski of the AP. Wild Owner Craig Leipold said, "This is a game change. We're overnight changing who we are. We're changing our identity. We'll never get that opportunity again." Krawczynski noted as much of a "fan as he is a businessman, Leipold desperately wanted to inject some sizzle into a roster short on star power this summer." But as late as Monday night, "he feared the team was going to come away empty-handed." Leipold said, "We didn't think we were going to get either one." It turns out that Parise and Suter "spent much of Monday and Tuesday talking to each other, researching the teams and trying to make a joint decision on where to play." For a "medium-sized sports market that has seen so many players leave for bigger cities and bigger pay days throughout the years, it was a momentous move" (AP, 7/5). In St. Paul, Charley Walters notes considering the recent drop in season tickets, the Wild "had little choice but to try to sign Parise and Suter in order to revive interest in the product." The Wild "enjoyed 409 consecutive sellouts, including exhibition, regular-season and postseason games," but the team last season had just 16 sellouts. The Wild have "gone three straight seasons without an increase in season tickets ranging from $43 to $88 per game." Meanwhile, the team now would "seem relevant enough to warrant a Winter Classic." TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field "want to host the game," and depending on the Wild's performance, the '14 or '15 Winter Classic "would be a realistic possibility" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/6).

ALREADY PAYING DIVIDENDS: In Minneapolis, Amelia Rayno reports as of late Thursday afternoon, the Wild "had sold more than 1,000 season tickets since the news broke" that Parise and Suter had signed with the club. The Wild also have sold all 120 jerseys they printed with the new players' names and numbers. Wild Media Relations Coordinator Ryan Stanzel said that the printing "would continue throughout the day as long as fans continued to buy them" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/6).

DID I SAY THAT? YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote Leipold is a "hypocrite" after signing Parise and Suter based on something he said earlier this year. In April, Leipold said, "We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system." Wyshynski: "Crying about expenses related to player salaries, and then adding $196 million in expenses for two players. Unless, of course, he meant the Wild would fix their spending levels by inflating them for the two largest contracts in franchise history." Had he "stuck to his guns, Wild fans don't experience a game-changing day for the franchise and Leipold doesn't get a chance to write a valentine to those fans as the 'Secret Weapon' in negotiations" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/5).
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