Wild.com recently did an article on how interest in the team has skyrocketed during the most recent playoff run. The Wild set a franchise record for attendance at 19,416 in the series versus the Blackhawks while having three of those games in the top five all-time. Apparently Wild fans showed up in droves to purchase merchandise as well; moving the team to number five in the league for a six week stretch that started on April 1st. Ratings were the highest on the radio and TV ever in the Twin Cities designated marketing area.
All this is awesome for the Wild as they try to compete for market share against the other professional sports franchises in the area. The Xcel Energy Center crowd not only showed up, but provided an amazing atmosphere both in the arena and for viewers on TV. The crowd was loud, rowdy, and did I mention loud? People that I spoke to that were at the X for Game 6 said they left the arena with a headache and feeling slightly nauseous from the constant noise and with just how deafening it was.
I was unable to attend any of the playoff games in St. Paul, but envied everyone that was able to find tickets and go (kicks rocks).
Members of the media have made public comments of how the X is consistently one of the quietest arenas in the league. Even Michael Russo had to make excuses for Wild fans by saying, "Wild fans are like Toronto fans; they're watching and taking in the game, talking about it, but not loud."
Yeah, when Mr. Bob Naegle Jr. started the franchise in 2000, they took on the self-appointed "State of Hockey" mantra that, to other fanbases, comes off as highly pretentious. Minnesota hockey fans are proud of their state's history of producing hockey talent, one of the best high school tournaments in the country with the MSHSL High School Hockey Tournament every March, and its five NCAA Division I Men's Hockey schools.
Problem is that even though Minnesota is a hockey hot bed, the Minnesota fan is still very bandwagon.
Where was the noise, the crazy, and the ratings during the regular season? Was everyone still in a wait-and-see type holding pattern? I found it funny that people that Wild fans started to come out of the woodwork.
People talking about the hockey hangover from the night before with the strange person they shared the elevator with. People were wearing Wild shirts to work on casual day. Hell, my dad was even texting me after games that went into the wee hours of the morning, and he can hardly stay awake on the couch past 7:30 pm (sorry for the cheap shot Pops!). Friends were gathering at each other's homes to watch the games. Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub was filled to maximum fire marshal allowed capacity.
For once us die hards got to show off how much we know about our favorite team to those family and friends that could care less about the Wild throughout the 82-game season, but are quick to show up with a case of beer in hand and a brand spankin' new Parise jersey on for Game 1.
Good thing you had us here at Hockey Wilderness to actually have a solid discussion with other Wild fans.
And now the playoffs are over for this year's Wild team. The bandwagon fans have unhitched and are looking to hitch on to another team. It was a fun playoff run to share with everyone. The only hope is that Wild were able to convert a few of those casual fans into new season ticket holders and new die hard fans.