Team officials hope to make things right with Wild fans

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 16, 2013 - 11:43 AM

Wild representatives are offering apologies for the NHL lockout, but know all will be forgiven with on-ice success.

As the Wild prepares to mend fences with fans after the NHL lockout, it will stick with its longtime slogan -- Let's Play Hockey -- as the theme for this shortened season.

Then there is the unofficial theme being repeated by the team and the league: We're really, really sorry. Don't be mad. Please come back.

That's a little too long to paint on the Xcel Energy Center ice, but be prepared to hear it often from Wild officials and players during the lead-up to Saturday's season opener and beyond. And expect those pleas to be accompanied by the NHL equivalent of chocolates and roses. The Wild will work to soothe fans' wounded feelings by offering discounts, giveaways and a Wednesday scrimmage at Xcel, with free admission and $10 food vouchers.

Other NHL teams are following suit. And it appears many of hockey's relentlessly loyal followers will be quick to forgive, rushing back into the arms of their beloved. Less than 24 hours after the Wild announced Wednesday's free scrimmage, the fervent demand for tickets forced the team to suspend distribution. In cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa, thousands of fans showed up to see training camps open Sunday.

Matt Majka, the Wild's chief operating officer, said the team lost few season-ticket holders during the lockout. It will put single-game tickets on sale Wednesday, on the same day it will offer a 50 percent discount on merchandise at its team stores and give away autographed jerseys at the scrimmage.

"Everything's going to be back to normal, not like other cities where I'm sure it will suffer," said Pat Vos of Minneapolis, the first fan to camp out at the Xcel on Tuesday for the ticket sale. "But here in Minnesota, this is a hockey hotbed. It's almost a given anybody that was a fan will return."

All apologies

Majka said the franchise is prepared to offer mea culpas as long as necessary. Though he heard plenty of anger during the lockout, he anticipates the Wild can regain its entire fan base -- and perhaps add to it -- if it follows sincere apologies with high-quality play.

"Most people are pretty happy [the lockout is over]," Majka said. "Some folks feel cheated and are going to want their faith and trust to be earned back. We get that, and we accept that challenge."

The NHL consulted with franchises about post-lockout marketing plans, Majka said, but allowed them to formulate their own strategies to cater to local markets. In addition to Wednesday's activities, the Wild will offer merchandise specials throughout the month, give away T-shirts on Opening Night and award autographed jerseys to selected fans. Season-ticket holders will be offered a 20 percent discount on additional single-game tickets through Feb. 28, and they will be given waivers of some ticket fees, reward-program points and recognition during games.

Other teams are offering free parking, concession discounts and complimentary tickets for kids. Fans have come flocking back in places such as Buffalo, where they bought 31,000 tickets in one day, and in Philadelphia, where the fire marshal had to cut off entry to the Flyers' practice facility when 3,000 people came to watch the team's first practice.

In the Wild's case, team officials knew they had two powerful lures: the hockey DNA embedded in Minnesotans, and the summer signings of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Majka acknowledged that the state's love for the game gives the Wild a leg up, especially compared to nontraditional hockey markets. The signings of Parise and Suter generated sales of 4,000 season tickets over the summer, and the lockout did not seem to diminish fans' excitement to see whether the Wild can meet heightened expectations.

Hot sales

The Wild does not release season-ticket figures. But Majka said the team is on course to get back to its peak of 16,500 "very quickly," despite the lockout. He added that no corporate sponsors left, and most season-ticket holders did not ask for refunds for cancelled games; instead, they left the money in their accounts to go toward future tickets.

"I'm thankful for that, and I'm a little surprised by that," Majka said. "I know there was some pain ... But I'd rather have a really angry passionate fan than an apathetic fan. I knew they cared."

Opening on Hockey Day Minnesota also was important, Majka said. That yearly celebration, set for Saturday, originally was supposed to include a Wild game along with several high school and college games. The first draft of the NHL schedule did not have the Wild playing at home on Saturday, but Majka said Wild officials worked "super hard" with the league to get a home date that night.

The apologies, and the olive branches extended to fans, will continue for several weeks. The Wild is running newspaper ads this week asking for fans' forgiveness, and players will offer their personal thanks to selected fans before Saturday's game.

They also will continue making amends throughout the season, as the players seek to make it up to people in the best way they can: by making sure the season is worth the wait.

"It's important for fans to know we apologize to all of them," Parise said. "The best way to do that is to put a good team on the ice, a fun product to watch, a team that wins. This state has a great hockey tradition. I hope we can get them back in the stands."

  • related content

  • Wild home opener vs. Colorado sold out

    Wednesday January 16, 2013

    In less than an hour, the Wild sold out two games this morning

  • Russo: Wednesday scrimmage will be critical for a few Wild forwards

    Tuesday January 15, 2013

    The Wild will hold a big scrimmage Wednesday night in front of a packed house. The exhibition will be especially important for Matt Kassian, Stephane Veilleux, Jake Dowell and Nick...

  • Chart: Rush to the Wild opener

    Tuesday January 15, 2013

    Today: Open scrimmage at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. Tickets were free, but all of them were claimed by Tuesday night, the team said. The scrimmage will be televised...

  • All 48 Wild games will be on TV

    Tuesday January 15, 2013

    Good times

  • Wild's final forward spots still up for grabs

    Tuesday January 15, 2013

    The Wild brass has said this week's abbreviated training camp is more about preparation than evaluation, but that doesn't mean tough decisions don't lie ahead.

  • Minnesota Wild NHL hockey fans buy single game tickets Wednesday, Jan....

  • (left to right) Pat Vos of South Minneapolis and Jess Crane of Maple...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
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: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close