Saturday, May 21 2022

A sun-drenched infield hosted the Wild on Monday afternoon when team staff and a few players got a glimpse of Target Field ahead of the Winter Classic, but that’s not what the stadium will look like for the game on New Year’s Day.

The face-off between the Wild and the Blues will take place at 6 p.m., the first Winter Classic that the NHL has scheduled for the evening.

“It’s going to be completely different,” said Wild owner Craig Leipold as he stood in the shade just off home plate. “What we will remember on January 1st is that we sat here [Monday] under the scorching sun with sunglasses. It will probably be zero degrees. It’s gonna be fun. It will be surreal. “

After years of claiming to host the NHL’s flagship event, the Wild had to wait a little longer to get noticed.

The team initially received the 2020 Winter Classic, but the season was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the game was eventually removed from the schedule. In June, the league gave the green light for a 2021 release and introduced it to the Wild. A weeklong celebration should be part of the festivities, with a possibility of games for old and young.

“We just sat down and said, ‘OK. Let’s just keep it,’” Leipold said. “We had the jerseys ready. We had everything ready. A lot of the work was already done. It’s an easier transition to make because we had done so much.”

Target Field has always been the desired backdrop for a nature-themed winter classic, and the rink will cover the second base with the end boards extending towards each base line. The Wild, Blues and Twins season ticket holders got their first tickets, and the response has been “excellent,” said Wild president Matt Majka; only a limited number of tickets will be made available to the public. The number of seats is estimated at around 40,000, and the match will be televised on TNT.

Tickets will go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. Wednesday through Ticketmaster.

“For a big stadium, it’s going to be intimate and that’s going to make it special,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was also on hand at Target Field.

Since 2008, the Winter Classic has become an annual tradition on the NHL calendar, but the league has never hosted a nighttime showdown before it. Some outdoor actions, however, took place in the evening; last season’s meeting in Lake Tahoe between Colorado and Vegas had to be postponed until later today after ice conditions deteriorated due to the afternoon sun.

“We know the sun can wreak havoc with us,” Bettman said. “It won’t be a problem, so it will be great.”

In the team’s only other away appearance, the Wild won a resounding 6-1 victory over Chicago on February 21, 2016, at TCF Bank Stadium. Defender Matt Dumba scored the first goal of the game.

“That day was one of my favorite experiences in the NHL, favorite hockey experiences,” said Dumba wearing the team’s Winter Classic jersey which is a nod to the Twin Cities. and in condition and has vintage vibes such as elbow pads.

Dumba and captain Jared Spurgeon are the only survivors of this Stadium Series game, and only three players (Alex Goligoski, Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello) participated in a Winter Classic. It will be the NHL’s first away game for many, like winger Marcus Foligno.

“It’ll be cool, especially right under all the lights here,” Dumba said. “I know Marcus and I came to a Twins game the other night and we were just trying to imagine it in our heads, seeing the rink in the middle of the field and how cool it would be under the lights there. night, and I think it’s gonna be really special. It’s pretty cool that we’re the first. “

Although the event is still months away, the stakes are already clear.

Facing a Central Division rival in St. Louis is always a key clash, but a mid-season fixture should have an intensity indicative of teams scrambling for the standings – an importance that is not. lost to the Wild.

“It’s a game where you can put a team together,” Foligno said. “It can be a building block for a team to propel themselves up in the standings or just push for a playoff spot. So we’re really looking forward to being in a good position for this game and coming out on the safe side. . “

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