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Staff Sgt. Jason Keeton came to the Hockey Lodge store at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday to pick up a Zach Parise jersey for himself and order a Ryan Suter jersey for his wife. Just $190 apiece. Orders for both the jerseys and season tickets were brisk.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

State of Hockey is manic

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO
  • Star Tribune
  • July 6, 2012 - 1:37 PM

Vadnais Heights resident Murray Rudisill was cutting the grass on a laid-back July 4 when he picked up his phone and realized hockey chaos had ensued. He had about 30 missed calls and 40 text messages -- "Incredible," "It's a miracle," two of them read -- over the Wild's double- blockbuster signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Rudisill called all of his buddies to join him in the pool.

"This is the State of Hockey," he said. "We need the Stanley Cup."

That passion took Minnesotans such as Rudisill from their backyards Wednesday to the Hockey Lodge store at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning, where they arrived in a steady stream to snatch up freshly printed Parise and Suter jerseys at $190 apiece. As of late Thursday afternoon, the Wild had sold more than 1,000 season tickets since the news broke. At that point, the Wild had printed 120 jerseys and sold them all. Media relations coordinator Ryan Stanzel said the printing would continue through the day as long as fans continued to buy them.

Said Shoreview resident Joel Jones, who ordered a Parise jersey and waited while it was made: "When somebody makes that type of investment, it perks up the ears of everybody. It makes them want to be a part of it, too."

Hot off the presses

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the heat press crew of three was down in the basement of Xcel Energy Center, busily pressing letters on jerseys after being called in to work.

"I'll probably be working a long day," said leader Pam Fontaine as she arranged green-lined white letters to spell P-A-R-I-S-E at a small work table surrounded by hanging jerseys.

Upstairs at the Hockey Lodge, Shakopee resident Nels Haug, who dropped by with his 6-year-old son, Grant, was eager to be the first to purchase one. He rifled through the rack of hangers as warehouse lead Jonathan Michael wheeled it over to him. Haug picked out a green Parise jersey.

"I'll take it!" he said with an understated fist pump.

The Haugs don't go to more than a handful of Wild games each year and don't buy many expensive jerseys, but they have considered season tickets since hearing the big announcement.

"The ownership went and did something that's never been done in this state," Haug said. "They went and got the top two free agents out there -- in any sport. So, yeah, I think it sends a clear message that the ownership wants to bring a winning team to the community and the fans."

Rising expectations

Many fans were still in disbelief over the acquisitions, but it didn't stop them from being mobilized.

"The New Jersey Devils' captain decided to come to Minnesota over Pittsburgh," said Eden Prairie construction worker Mike Rogalski. "I mean, how can that be? I told my old lady that I needed $190 to hurry up and go get [a jersey]."

Expect the arena to be crowded next season, fans said. The pressure is on, more than ever, to produce.

Before Wednesday, South St. Paul native Shawn Longacre was ready to give up the season tickets that he's held since the first year of Wild hockey 12 years ago.

"It's been hard," he said. "It's really hard to spend that money and watch them lose constantly. But now I'm in."

But with the big moves -- ones that many fans never thought the Wild would make -- have the diehards been set on the playoffs and maybe even a Stanley Cup win?

"This is Minnesota. Splashy is not what we're about. We're about results, so hopefully this will bring that," Vadnais Heights resident Jason Parker said.

"Is it enough to get them all the way? Sure it's enough to get them all the way. So let's just see if they can do it."

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