The NHL still is targeting a start date on or around Jan. 1 for next season, but a potential New Year's Day kickoff won't include the Wild playing the St. Louis Blues in the Winter Classic at Target Field.
That event was postponed Thursday by the NHL because of the ongoing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, prolonging the franchise's wait to stage the league's signature event after it was finally tabbed for the Jan. 1, 2021, spotlight earlier this year.
The Wild is very confident it will host the Winter Classic in 2022, although the league said only it plans to return to Minnesota for the game in the near future.
"The NHL has given us every indication that the Winter Classic is coming to the State of Hockey and Target Field when it is safe to do so and our fans can fully embrace it," Wild President Matt Majka said. "We look forward to that day."
Not only did the NHL nix the Winter Classic, but it also scrapped the 2021 All-Star Game set for Jan. 29-30 in Florida from a schedule that's still up in the air.
Although the NHL successfully finished last season after getting stalled in March by the pandemic, awarding the Stanley Cup in late September from a bubble in Edmonton, the template for next season remains unclear — including whether fans will be in attendance.
Since the NHL isn't sure when that will be possible, and because fan participation is key to spectacles like the Winter Classic, the league decided to hold off until 2022, when fans should be able watch in-person.
In the meantime, the league plans to consider new events that will allow fans to engage with games and teams during a season that will lack staples like the Winter Classic.
The Wild has long coveted the outdoor celebration, but it didn't previously meet the criteria for the showcase since it was still developing into a playoff team with high-profile players.
While the Wild came close to nabbing the 2020 game, it ultimately lost out to the Stars and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. League officials toured Target Field in 2018 while deliberating the 2020 decision, and again visited in early 2019 and noticed improvements to the venue.
A league group also took in last year's NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis, and the NHL was impressed with how the Twin Cities pulled off an event of that magnitude.
Aside from the game itself, which was pegged to accommodate around 39,000 fans at Target Field, the festivities were also going to include a weeklong celebration in Minneapolis and St. Paul that potentially featured interactive games, concerts and an art fair.
The Wild has participated in only one other outdoor contest, a 6-1 win over the Blackhawks on Feb. 21, 2016, during a Stadium Series matchup at TCF Bank Stadium.
Overall, the NHL has held 30 outdoor regular-season games. There have been 12 Winter Classics since the inaugural one in 2008.