Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: When the Wild hit the ice, will the fans fill the stands?

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA and JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 7, 2013 - 5:57 AM

The Minnesota Wild is headed back to the ice, but Sunday's tentative deal to end the 113-day National Hockey League lockout leaves one overriding question: How many people will show up for the games?

A block from the Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild will belatedly begin a 12th season, the assistant store manager at the newly expanded Cossetta's took a dim view. "I am a fan. I guess I'm disappointed that it took this long to figure it out. Really, I've kind of moved on -- winter's almost over," said Greg Fischer, who said he had heard little talk of the lockout settlement at the restaurant Sunday after it was announced.

But Tony Knopp of Spotlight TMS, a California-based company that manages corporate sports ticket buying, said the settlement probably came in the nick of time so corporations now considering season tickets for next fall -- most corporate buying is done nearly a season in advance -- could proceed with their purchases. "What you don't want to do with sponsors is you don't want to upset the status quo," said Knopp, who said he believed the NHL had narrowly averted a marketing and image "apocalypse." "If they see you're [going] to upset the status quo, now they're going to leave you.

"If they do play a 50-game schedule, I think that the fallout's going to be a lot less than people think." While some sports analysts maintain that professional hockey does not have national appeal, said Knopp, NHL fans are "as passionate as any other sport -- and I would say more so."

Even though Wild officials were keeping silent on the effect of the settlement, and awaiting its ratification by team owners and the players' union, others were also optimistically talking of finally starting a season that many fans had been anticipating because of the addition of high-profile free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

"We got half of a season back," said Joe Campbell, a spokesman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "Hopefully, we'll make up on the back end with a playoff run what we missed out on on the front end with a shortened season."

When he heard of the tentative settlement early Sunday, Kelly Raeth said he put on his Wild jersey and hat for the first time since the lockout began -- ending his own boycott. "That was my protest," he said. Now, said Raeth, as he stood inside the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday, he hoped to resume his part-time job at the arena selling Wild apparel on game nights.

"I am excited to see the ice full again and the place rocking like it should," he said.

For the Wild, the start of the season -- even an abbreviated one -- could not come too soon.

Xcel attendance had climbed following the last player's lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season, with 761,614 fans attending games in 2005-06. But after 761,288 fans came in 2008-09, attendance dropped noticeably as the Wild struggled to make the playoffs. Last year, attendance fell to 728,683.

In November, as this season's lockout completed its first full month, state sales taxes and lodging taxes in St. Paul increased slightly, mimicking what occurred during the 2004-05 lockout, which might not have been as damaging as was believed.

State revenue officials, who cautioned against drawing hard conclusions, said that sales tax figures actually increased 4.2 percent in St. Paul during January through May 2005, during that year's lockout, compared to the same five-month period in 2004 before the lockout occurred.

Local officials were clearly glad to have fans headed downtown again.

Matt Kramer, president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said this lockout hurt worse than the one eight years ago because it came after "four years of recession when businesses had already become as lean as you possibly can. Now, having 113 days of lockout has a significant impact on those businesses."

He pointed to the St. Paul Hotel, which sits a block from the arena and is the designated provider for visiting teams and media and counts on renting more than 50 rooms on game nights.

"I am absolutely ecstatic," Kramer said of the lockout's end.

But even Sunday's tentative deal could not diminish some realities that the hockey team faces in the competitive Twin Cities sports market. The biggest hockey news of the year still drew far fewer page views on the Star Tribune website Sunday than did the aftermath of Saturday's Minnesota Vikings playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

On one fan page on the Wild's website, a fan suggested a boycott of the Wild's first home game to showcase the lingering anger, but then conceded that "the chances of that happening are pretty much zero" because "we are sheep and will go where we are herded."

Across from the arena, at the Liffey bar and restaurant, Jessica Clayson said her work hours were cut in half because of the lockout, some co-workers lost their jobs and others were no longer working enough hours to keep medical benefits. "I can start paying my bills," said a relieved Clayson.

Tom Reid, owner of a bar of the same name just two blocks from the Wild's home ice, also was eager to see the team back in action.

The former NHL player, who also works as a Wild radio broadcaster, said his bar's part-time seasonal staff was cut by about 75 percent from the typical 25 or 30 servers, bartenders, kitchen help and others he hires on Wild game nights.

"We are just excited we have hockey back and that we can bring back our staff. They have lost hours and tips," Reid said "When you hitch your star to the NHL and they don't have an event, it can be very difficult."

mkaszuba @startribune.com • 651-222-1673 jadams@startribune.com • 952-746-3283#

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 10 2nd Qtr 13:34
Pittsburgh 0
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 88 4th Qtr 4:48
Cleveland 95
New Orleans 78 4th Qtr 5:59
Washington 60
Milwaukee 59 3rd Qtr 10:55
New York 63
Philadelphia 46 3rd Qtr 9:55
Brooklyn 54
Charlotte 59 3rd Qtr 5:50
Atlanta 69
Sacramento 31 1st Qtr 0:54
San Antonio 25
Memphis 18 1st Qtr 2:16
Dallas 22
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close