Wild Fans Appear To Be Moving On From Lockout And Embracing Team's Excitement
The "anticipated backlash and fan resistance to hockey's return has been muffled at best" in the Twin Cities, as the Wild "welcomed the sixth-largest crowd in its history for the season opener Saturday," according to Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. An overflow crowd of 18,000-plus returned for Sunday's 1-0 victory against the Stars, and any "residual anger seems to have been washed away in the current of excitement over this team's star power and potential." Any lockout or work stoppage "stirs emotions, and the default setting for many fans is to threaten abandonment." But many more "return once the games begin again because deep down, they love the sport or their team." The Wild's cause is "helped by a few critical components." The excitement over this summer's signings of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter "returned and the curiosity factor provided a boost at the box office." Hockey "matters in this market and hockey fans generally are a loyal bunch so getting them re-engaged didn't require as much effort as some other places." But the Wild "must continue to make amends and show fans that the team's remorse is authentic" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/22). In St. Paul, Tom Powers wrote if the first game "is any indication, this abbreviated season promises to be as unpredictable as it is frenetic." The Wild had season-ticket holders "all over the ice, like practice pucks, during the pregame ceremonies." Others were "featured on the video screen, and a bunch of them were even introduced individually." It all was "part of 'honoring' the fans for being there for the much-delayed opening faceoff" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/20).
ZACH ATTACK: In North Dakota, Brad Schlossman noted the Wild “introduced a new superstar this weekend” with Parise, and he has been “much easier for fans to love” than other stars who have played for the team. Marian Gaborik, who played for the Wild from '01-09, was the "only superstar" the team ever had, but fans were "never able to fully embrace" him. Meanwhile, there are “many factors that make Parise easy for fans to love.” He is a “native Minnesotan” and played college hockey “in front of many Wild fans” while at the Univ. of North Dakota. Parise “chose to return home during the offseason, despite the fact that other teams reportedly offered more money.” Fans also “enjoy players who aren’t afraid to mix it up or get their nose dirty, and Parise’s game is anything but perimeter.” He received a “huge ovation when he was announced” as the game’s No. 2 star after Sunday's win (GRAND FORKS HERALD, 1/21).