More than 2,000 fans who attended the Wild's first-ever practice at the Bloomington Ice Garden on Sunday witnessed a very rare feat: a goalie goal.
Granted, it was in a small two-on-two drill, but it thrilled the crowd nonetheless.
After Devan Dubnyk had to leave his goal to retrieve a puck and ended up on his stomach tangled up with a teammate, fellow goaltender Alex Stalock found himself facing an open net with an easy shot. He didn't forsake the opportunity.
"I know Bruce [Boudreau] said before the practice is more about the fans. It's not really about us," defenseman Mike Reilly said. "The drills were designed to, set up to be like that. A little competitive there, too, with the D against the forwards, and that's always fun when you get to do that. I think we've been doing that a little bit the last couple practices. So definitely when it gets competitive, and you're having fun, it's a blast out there."
The Wild was coming off its first back-to-back victories, after winning 2-1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. And Boudreau said while the day after a game is usually pretty light anyway, he wanted to make sure this practice was worthwhile for the audience.
"There's 2,000 people here. You can't go out there and just dog it. You've got to be professional, and they were," Boudreau said. "I thought they did a great job interacting with the fans and trying to do what they were doing here. We wanted to make it a little fun so there was a little bit of entertainment for the people who came to see."
The Wild crew was impressed with the turnout, considering it was a Sunday morning with a Vikings game on at the same time. But that maybe was just a testament to how "crazy" the state is about hockey, as Reilly put it.
Reilly said he became familiar with the Bloomington Ice Garden growing up playing youth hockey in Chaska, where Bloomington Jefferson was one of the rivals. He also said he played there for sections once he went to high school at Holy Angels.
"I don't think we got the best results here in high school, but definitely a lot of great memories came here," Reilly said. "It's kind of fun being back."
Center Matt Cullen recalled playing a lot of youth hockey tournaments at the venue where his teams managed "a couple wins." But seeing all the Bloomington Jefferson banners hanging around the rink Sunday brought up some less fond memories, like when that team beat Cullen's Moorhead in the 1994 Class 2A state tournament.
"Yeah, I've never been comfortable with that baby blue," Cullen said. "They got us in the state tourney, and I always had a hard time with that one."
•Winger Jason Zucker was given the day off to be with his newborn son. "We thought, 'OK, she's still in the hospital, she gets out today, we are not the kind of mean guys that we're not going to let your husband be with the wife of the first-born,'" as Boudreau put it.
•Forwards Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle were absent, dealing with long-term injuries, as was Landon Ferraro (hip injury). Defenseman Kyle Quincey also did not skate.