The street corner usually packed with Wild fans while they wait to cross West Seventh Street was deserted.
Instead of being clogged with cars, the RiverCentre Parking Ramp was nowhere close to being filled. Some levels had only a few vehicles; others none.
And the only activity outside Gate 1 of Xcel Energy Center was the traffic cruising by and the flags swaying in the wind.
Sunday night was supposed to be the next make-or-break game for the Wild and its playoff hopes, a Central Division clash with the Nashville Predators on national television that was likely going to help decide each team’s fate, with both clamoring for one of only two available wild-card berths in the Western Conference.
But the matchup was the latest to be wiped out after the NHL paused its season Thursday amid growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, a leaguewide lockdown whose ripple effects were evident by the scene in St. Paul.
“It’s eerie,” Wild fan Jenna Yentsch said. “It’s very eerie.”
With framed jerseys hanging from the ceiling, memorabilia such as sticks and photos adorning the walls and most of the 46 televisions turned to games, Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub in downtown St. Paul looks like an alternate universe where live sports still exist.
A closer look at the screens, though, shows throwback action from before most of the sports world stopped competing. There’s also a vintage basketball game in standard definition and a replay of the 2008 Winter Classic between Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
“This kind of counts as watching hockey because I don’t know who won,” said Yentsch, who lives in St. Paul and was at Tom Reid’s on Sunday afternoon with friends. “At this point, it’s like I’d rather watch reruns of hockey than not watch anything at all.”
What also reinforces reality is the crowd size. While some patrons were seated along the bar and others were scattered among tables, the restaurant “would be very well full,” said owner Tom Reid, if the puck was going to drop on a Wild home game in 90 minutes.
“It’s not even close,” said Reid, the former North Star and current Wild radio analyst.
Down the street, business at Zamboni’s Pizza Pub has slowed. There are some walk-ins but not as many as the past few weeks.
Nine guests were inside New Bohemia Wurst and Bier House on Sunday afternoon — a far cry from the vibe during recent game nights, even when the team has been on the road like it was last Sunday.
“We were pretty full,” bartender Alex Broderick recalled.
Seventh Street Truck Park next door was busier, with the atmosphere typical of a normal Sunday, but it would have been bustling if the Wild was playing.
“It’s a whole different animal when that stuff’s going on,” bartender Carsten Haglind said.
March is Seventh Street Truck Park’s busiest month, Haglind said, but he doesn’t expect Wild games at Xcel Energy Center going dark to affect the place too much. The venue already had an influx of customers during the state high school wrestling and hockey tournaments, and Seventh Street Truck Park eclipsed its LuckyPalooza business from last year even though Saturday’s block party was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.
“Two weeks before, if they had made this decision to … do the social distancing and stuff like that, we would have been pretty bummed,” Haglind said. “But those [events] have passed us. We got it out of the way, and now we’re just looking at a few Wild games. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Only four Wild home games remain on the schedule and 10 overall.
Since the team was fighting for a playoff spot before this hiatus, all of them were poised to matter — an electricity that likely would have spilled into the streets surrounding Xcel Energy Center on the days it played.
For now, that pulse is gone, and it’s unclear when it will get the chance to return.
“Hopefully sooner than later, because it’s affecting everybody — everybody,” Reid said. “And we don’t know how to make it better right now.”