Scoggins: Many fans find call of the Wild too hard to resist

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 22, 2013 - 1:01 PM

The anticipated backlash and fan resistance to hockey's return has been muffled at best in this market.


Wild fans in the stands at last week's scrimmage.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Shawn Larson vowed to cancel his Wild season tickets and turn his back on the NHL -- at least for a certain period of time -- as his way of protesting the 113-day lockout. Larson loves hockey and has held season tickets since 2001, but the stalemate drove him to the point of declaring enough's enough.

And then the puck dropped on opening night Saturday.

"I told myself it wouldn't happen," Larson said. "But sure enough it did."

As frustrated as he felt, Larson couldn't stomach the thought of missing the debut of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and the new-look Wild so he settled into his usual seats at Xcel Energy Center. He loved being back and watching hockey again.

"I was planning on protesting for a while," he said. "It didn't last very long."

He's not alone. The anticipated backlash and fan resistance to hockey's return has been muffled at best in this market. The Wild opened its doors and welcomed the sixth-largest crowd in its history for the season opener Saturday. An overflow crowd of 18,000-plus returned for Sunday's 1-0 victory against the Dallas Stars.

So much for fans thumbing their nose at the league and its players for treating them like inconsequential spectators in a high-stakes poker game. Any residual anger seems to have been washed away in the current of excitement over this team's star power and potential.

"I'm still enthusiastic about the Wild," Tom Graves said, "but it's still something that's sticking in my head."

Graves was one of several long-time season ticket holders I interviewed in early December to gauge their frustration and reluctance to return once the lockout ended. Graves was on the fence at the time and debating whether to cancel his tickets, which he has held since the team's inception. Ultimately, he compromised and scaled back to partial season tickets. His lingering frustration didn't prevent him from attending the opener, but he expected to see more pushback from fans.

"It was amazing to be there on opening night," he said. "It was literally like nothing ever happened."

We probably shouldn't be too surprised. Any lockout or work stoppage stirs emotions, and the default setting for many fans is to threaten abandonment. You don't care about what we think? Fine, we'll just find something else to do with our time and money.

Some fans stick with their personal boycott. But many more return once the games begin again because deep down, they love the sport or their team. It's simply too difficult to turn away for good.

"I'm still a little bitter," Larson said. "My protest now is that I won't spend money on concessions for a while. It's my quiet protest that's probably not going to hurt them too bad. I can at least say I held strong somewhere."

He laughed at that statement. He wanted so badly to stay away, to let Wild management and players feel his frustration and understand that damage was done. But the pull was too strong and sucked him back in.

Larson expected to see pockets of empty seats the first night. Maybe a few fans holding signs about greed or perhaps some heckling.

"It was 100 percent opposite," he said.

The Wild's cause is helped by a few critical components. The excitement over the Parise-Suter signings this summer returned and the curiosity factor provided a boost at the box office. Hockey matters in this market and hockey fans generally are a loyal bunch so getting them re-engaged didn't require as much effort as some other places. The Wild also has an exciting and talented team after some lean years.

Plus, a 48-game season likely is more palatable to some families and is definitely preferable to zero games in a lost season.

"I think people were honestly just relieved to see some hockey," fan Josh Petzel said. "The thought of having 48 games in 99 days and every game meaning so much, I think that sort of helped dissipate some of that anxiety."

The Wild must continue to make amends and show fans that the team's remorse is authentic. Not everyone is on board again. Cameron Maxwell counts himself in that group. A season-ticket holder since the first season, Maxwell wrote a letter to this newspaper during the lockout in which he declared that he was "walking away from the NHL. I will never watch another game or spend another dollar with the NHL."

His anger has subsided to the point that he watched Sunday's game on TV after talking to his friends about the atmosphere inside the arena the previous night.

"I'm getting more in tune to going back but still upset about it," he said.

Maxwell figures he will probably return to his seats in a few weeks. It just seems inevitable.

"It's a sport I love," he said. "How do you just walk away from it?"

Chip Scoggins •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox 10 Bottom 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
Cleveland 7 Top 8th Inning
Minnesota 2
Detroit 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Kansas City 4
Seattle 3 Bottom 7th Inning
Houston 4
Los Angeles 6 Top 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 4
Texas 0 Top 5th Inning
LA Angels 0
Philadelphia 1 Top 3rd Inning
Oakland 3
San Francisco 0 Top 3rd Inning
San Diego 0
Arizona 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Colorado 1
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 7 2nd Qtr 13:42
Arizona 6
Denver 3 1st Qtr 3:27
Seattle 3
Kansas City 0 1st Qtr 5:06
Miami 0
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 4:00 PM
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 2nd Half 10:00
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 8 13:05
Saskatchewan 3
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question