The subzero wind chill and inferior game of the Minnesota Wild tested the courage, winter wardrobe and commitment of the city’s toughest hockey fans who showed up early and eager to go. compete in the NHL Outdoor Winter Classic Saturday night at Target Field.
Rachel Herdt from Moorhead bought tickets to the game for her husband, Aaron, as a Christmas present. “I didn’t know it would be that cold, but we’re big hockey fans and it’s in Minnesota, so I said, ‘We have to go,’” she said.
Even for Minnesota in January, it was cold with a temperature well below zero and a wind chill of minus twenty years. The sun was gone long before the 6 p.m. puck fell and temperatures slipped overnight. The “kiss cam” has been replaced with the “movable gel fan cam”.
Nonetheless, the fan fever was as hot as the flames that erupted from the back of the “State of Hockey” stage during country star Thomas Rhett’s set in the first intermission of the game between the Wild and the St. Louis Blues. .
The territory of the Minnesota Twins was transformed into a land of ice and snow, and fans came early for the unique experience of seeing NHL hockey in a baseball park. They lined up outside before the doors opened at 4 p.m., then lined up to buy NHL Winter Classic jerseys and caps.
The Herdts, each wearing a fleece blanket to reinforce their layers of clothing, spent the pre-game comfortably seated under a ceiling heater in the Truly On Deck bar near their seats on the left-field benches.
“I thought we were going to come in and see what it was about,” said Rachel Herdt. Her husband loved the log cabin look of the Heated House in Centerfield. “It reminds me of northern Minnesota,” he said, admiring the bonfires, Adirondack chairs, replica deer and mock ice fishing holes set up in the outfield.
Anna and Jake Smith, who live in Worthington, came over for the weekend and bought their Winter Classic gear at the pre-game fan festival in and around the Target Center where there was live music, refreshments, ice sculptures and hockey-themed entertainment.
“We love hockey. We love the Wild. You can’t miss this, once in a lifetime right here, ”she said.
She was wearing three pairs of pants under her thermal overalls. Jake Smith said they each had about 15 hand warmers, but he ignored the temperatures. “If you’re cold you just need to take a walk around a bit,” he said.
Anna Smith happily added, “I’m worried that my phone is dead.”
Inside Target Field, the playing rink was the center of the action, with eight small rinks surrounded by colored lights in the outfield for guest high school players. The juniper plants that make up the baseball hitter’s eye were the only visible green remaining in the park.
The majority of the 38,619 sold-out crowd sat outside – with the opportunity to warm up in a few prime spaces in the park.
Friends Tyler Niemela, 22, and Nate Hillstrom, 19, both from Cokato, were in their right-hand seats wearing their Wild jerseys in right field more than 90 minutes before game time. They said they wanted to soak up the experience.
Their seats also had stunning views of the pre-game confrontation with the lumberjacks in the right field which involved saws and tree trunks. As to whether they would be able to stay warm during the game, the two shrugged and said, “Oh, yeah.”
The breaks in the main game were filled with diversions, including a dramatic reading of Herb Brooks’ famous speech to the 1980 US Olympic team. “It’s your time. Their time is up,” yelled Adam Christopher Scott , 7, of Eden Prairie from the stage to the applause of the delighted crowd.
It was the Blues fans who had the most cheering as their team led most of the game. Among them were Valerie and Chad Burgess who came from St. Louis to accompany friends Sarah and PJ Hubert from Plymouth.
Chad Burgess said they brought a lot of disposable heaters. “We brought feet. We brought toes, hands and tights,” he said.
Valerie Burgess wore a Blues fleece jacket under an electric heated jacket she had bought for the game. The couples wore rolled up sleeping bags as they headed to the restaurant for a pre-game meal.
Sarah Hubert had put on her Blues jersey over her long, heavy-duty winter coat, saying: “It should be fun once we get in there and forget we’re cold.”