With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Jan. 12, came the end of the 119-day NHL lockout, sending teams scrambling to sign players and begin training camps before the season begins on Jan. 19. The Minnesota Wild hit the ice on Sunday with players and Coach Mike Yeo present.
Although many are relieved that the lockout is finally over, the lengthy negotiations have left many fans frustrated, with some fans going so far as to promise to boycott the NHL this season. Excitement regarding the acquisition of defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise remains high, however, and both players have apologized to Minnesota fans for the chaos surrounding the lockout.
“We definitely have to apologize for putting the fans through that. Then we just have to go out and play our hardest for them and know that if we play our hardest, hopefully they’ll come back,” Suter said in a press conference on Jan. 8.
“You apologize, and want to put a great product on the ice and slowly earn their trust back,” Parise said in the same press conference.
Another way the team apologized to the fans was by holding a scrimmage at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, Jan. 16 that was free and open to the public. Tickets sold out quickly, proving that although some fans are upset about the lockout and promised to boycott the season, many other fans are still excited to cheer on their home team.
Due to the length of the lockout, the NHL season will be short this year, with 48 games being played in 99 days.
“It’s going to be a sprint right away to get into the playoffs. Before anyone knows, the playoffs will be starting. It’s going to be pretty unique,” Parise said.
The Wild will kick off their season with a home stand on Saturday, Jan. 19 when they will host the Colorado Avalanche. Despite the shortened season, aspirations are high for the Wild this year. With the signing of Suter and Parise this summer came high expectations for how the team should be able to perform. The players are aware of this increased pressure and have embraced it wholeheartedly.
“More than anything else, I want to win. I think it’d even be that much more special if we can do it here. Fans here deserve a championship team. That would be the ultimate,” Parise said.
Single game tickets went on sale on Wednesday, Jan. 16 and are still available.