Wild captain Jared Spurgeon kept glancing over his shoulder at the scene behind him on Friday afternoon as he stood in the seats behind home plate at Target Field.

Tarps covered most of the outfield, cones were posted up by the pitching mound and other supplies sat in the infield.

The process of transforming the ballpark into a hockey haven had begun.

"You see all the pictures beforehand and what it's supposed to look like and just seeing it in person is exciting," Spurgeon said.

Puck drop for the Winter Classic between the Wild and St. Louis Blues isn't until New Year's Day, but the vision for the return of the NHL's marquee event has already been devised.

Now it's time to execute it.

On Thursday, the NHL's ice-making crew arrived in the Twin Cities and began unloading the equipment that'll install not one but nine rinks at Target Field.

Aside from where the Wild and Blues will face off on a sheet that will anchor the middle of the field, eight pond-hockey rinks will dot the outfield — the most ever at an NHL outdoor game.

More than 100 hockey players from programs all over Minnesota will play on them in the lead-up to the game and during intermissions.

These ponds, along with other elements like a log cabin and ice fishing holes, were inspired by Minnesota's lakes and its tradition of outdoor hockey, as the NHL wanted to celebrate the State of Hockey with this spotlight.

"We sort of looked to create an environment that on one look you go, 'Wow, this is the ultimate hockey experience,'" said Steve Mayer, the league's chief content officer.

Behind center field is the ice plant, a 53-foot mobile refrigeration unit imperative to the makeover.

After running piping, the crew will set up pans on Sunday and then the boards will be put in on Monday. If all goes well, the ice will start to form that night.

"It looks like we're going to have some really good weather for hockey and making ice outdoors this time around," said Mike Craig, the NHL's senior manager of facilities operations and hockey operations. "So, forecast is really in our favor."

Craig expects most of the work to get finished during the day, but his team constantly checks the weather — getting updates three times a day. They are looking at what's in store for the next few hours as well as the long-term outlook.

"Anything close to freezing is ideal," Craig said. "That way we have the opportunity to run our truck and equipment the way it's meant to and have full control of what's going on."

By the evening of Dec. 30, two days before the 6 p.m. prime-time start, the venue will be primed for hockey.

"The rink will be fully installed, everything ready to go," Craig said.

Since the Wild was initially supposed to host the Winter Classic on New Year's Day 2021, planning for the spectacle started before the game was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be the first Winter Classic since the 2020 rendition at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and the revival will also include the unveiling of the 2022 U.S. Olympic women's hockey team, appearances by current and former Minnesota sports stars and a performance from country music singer Thomas Rhett.

But the main attraction is the action on the ice between the Wild and Blues.

"Minnesotans love their outdoor hockey, so I can't wait," said the Wild's Nick Bjugstad, the former Blaine High School and Gophers forward who also previewed Target Field on Friday with Spurgeon. "It's going to be a good game. It's always a good rivalry with the Blues, and I'm sure we'll have a great showing. So, a lot of excitement."