Dismal end to Wild's decade forces fans to review options

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 23, 2011 - 12:27 AM

This will be the third consecutive season in which the Wild has missed the playoffs. And it will be eight full years since Jacques Lemaire’s underdogs made their run to the Western Conference finals.

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The Woo-Man -- Wild fan Todd Robideau of Excelsior -- misses the inspirational play (and video clip) of former Wild player Wes Walz (left).

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

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The Wild is eight games from the conclusion of its 10th season in Minnesota. This decade of NHL hockey has taken 11 years, for the 2004-05 season was wiped out with the owners' lockout.

This is the sixth season since the NHL returned with 4-on-4 overtimes, shootouts and a point system intended to convince the fans of even subpar teams that their lads were winning more often than they lost.

The Wild has been in two playoff series in that time -- a five-game elimination vs. eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim in 2007 and a six-game upset loss to Colorado in 2008.

This will be the third consecutive season in which the Wild has missed the playoffs. And it will be eight full years since Jacques Lemaire's underdogs made their run to the Western Conference finals.

Those were wonderful weeks for the Woo-Man and his pals in the lower region of Sections 110-111 -- enough so that he continues to write the checks to cover the pair of $69-per-game season tickets.

The Woo-Man is Todd Robideau of Excelsior, and he earned the nickname while performing what he considered a public service to Wild fans.

Wes Walz was an original Wild player in 2000 and stayed until his retirement in the fall of 2007.

"When we won, there would be the Wild anthem, and then there would be a video clip of Wes on the scoreboard, coming out of the locker room and shouting, 'Woo, that's Wild hockey,'" Robideau said.

"Then, Wes retired, and the Wild decided to stop showing that clip. I said, 'No way. We're going to have our woo.' So, when we win, I let out a 'woo' that you can hear all over the building.''

There have been seasons when Robideau battled the Interstate 94 mess to attend every game. He missed a couple this season.

"I'm talking to a couple of guys about maybe splitting my tickets next season," he said Tuesday. "I've never done that before.''

The Woo-Man shook his head forlornly and said: "You're disappointed at where it is after 10 seasons. There isn't much cap room, and there's very little in draft picks. It's hard to see how it gets better.''

The Woo-Man has no trouble assessing the blame.

"Doug Risebrough,'' he said. "I don't know how many times I put that in writing with my season-ticket renewal. I didn't understand how someone with that many bad draft choices, somebody that let [Marian] Gaborik and [Brian] Rolston leave without getting anything back ... how he still had a job.''

Risebrough was fired as the hockey boss by owner Craig Leipold in April 2009. Two years later, new GM Chuck Fletcher still has much work to do to fill the talent gap he inherited.

"We don't have any goal scorers, and we're at the cap limit,'' Gary Lane of Woodbury said. "If you're running a hockey team that's in that situation, you should be embarrassed.

"This is a team stuck with too many bad contracts. I mean, look at [Pierre-Marc] Bouchard. The Wild tried to trade him and couldn't find any takers. So, they gave him a contract for $4 million a year.

"And Eric Nystrom -- you bring him in and halfway through the season, he has one goal ... an empty-netter. I thought Fletcher would be the answer, but you see Nystrom and have to wonder about him, too."

Jackie Lane, Gary's wife, said: "We've had these tickets for 10 years ... started at $4,400 and it's now $6,000. And the team is getting worse, not getting better.''

Rich Swanson from Rogers has split season tickets since the arrival of the Wild. He has a kinder view of things.

"I think they started to find some stability this season,'' he said. "I like the way [Cal] Clutterbuck plays, [Mikko] Koivu plays. I saw improvement this season. We'll be back [with season tickets] next year, no doubt.''

Nearby, Gary Lane was saying he will write the check for season tickets one more time.

"If it doesn't get better ... we could use that $6,000 to go to the Caribbean,'' he said.

To which wife Jackie took a sip of a pregame beverage and said: "I'd rather go to the Caribbean.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • preusse@startribune.com

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