To protect themselves from the windy 25 degrees in Edina on Tuesday, Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine sported tuques on top of their helmets. Coach Mike Yeo wore one over his bald head.
When Mikko Koivu saw that Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter were smart enough to wear jackets with hoodies under their jerseys, the Wild captain headed back to the locker room inside Braemar Arena and got a hoodie to cover his ears.
When Chuck Fletcher saw this, the Wild general manager teased Koivu, saying, "You must be from southern Finland, not northern Finland."
"It was too cold for me," Koivu said. "I'm getting old."
It was a fun morning down at Braemar, where the Wild held a practice on an outdoor rink covered by an awning. More than 1,000 kids and adults pressed against the glass and braved the cold, snowy conditions in order to see their favorite players, snap pictures and get some autographs.
"I grew up playing on a lake. There were no boards, no equipment, you lose a puck in the snowbank easy," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "But that was fun. It was a neat atmosphere."
The practice got Wild players excited for the Feb. 20 outdoor practice at TCF Bank Stadium that will precede the Feb. 21 Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Like I've told the guys, this is the best part," said Vanek, who played in the first Winter Classic in 2008 with Buffalo and in a Stadium Series game with the Islanders at Yankee Stadium in 2014. "Even the outdoor game, [the best part] is having the practice, having your family come out. I think the game itself is usually a little bit sloppy, but I think that everything that comes with it, that's the fun part."
An hour in Tuesday, Suter felt bad for the kids because it was so cold. Vanek, with a big smile, said not to worry: "It's Edina here, so I think they've got fire pits and who knows? The ground's heated probably."
Banged-up Zach Parise didn't practice, nor did injured goalie Darcy Kuemper. Yeo doesn't think his upper-body injury is major, saying, "I don't think it's going to be a two- or three-day thing, but I also don't think it's going to be a two- or three-week thing."
Goalie Devan Dubnyk, playing through a cut wrist, took part in some of practice just to break in new pads and experience the outdoor atmosphere.
Practice was intended to provide fun for the fans and players alike, so Yeo began by running a reverse-handed, two-puck shinny game where all players skated together playing pickup hockey. Left-shot players used sticks meant for righties, and vice versa.
It was a mess.
"I told the guys it looked like our game against Pittsburgh," Yeo said, laughing.
But Yeo wanted to get some use out of practice, too, so he ran the team through drills afterward before ending with a penalty-shot competition against Niklas Backstrom and the Wild's emergency goaltender, Tino Vasquez.
There were some highlight-reel goals from players like Jared Spurgeon and some funny moments when Backstrom "pulled out some old tricks" and ruined chances by Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba with the old-fashioned poke check.
In the shinny game, Niederreiter and Vanek, two left wingers, played as blue-liners.
"A couple hard rims I had, I think they pay guys $4.5 million for that, so I think I did pretty good," Vanek joked. "I've got a future there."
Players said it actually wasn't very cold once they got moving and sweating. Brooks, Suter's 5-year-old son who plays often on that rink, told dad to "wear some long underwear, and I didn't listen to him."
Added Yeo, "I had a lot of layers out there. Some of the other coaches were not so prepared."
Yeo doesn't yet know his attire for the outdoor game.
"I've been a little paranoid about that, I've been asking every day," he said. "As long as I don't have a big pom-pom on top of my head — I'm not crazy about that look. The scissors almost came out today."
It was a good tuneup for the outdoor game.
"It gives you a little feeling of what it's going to be like," Koivu said. "It's going to be a lot bigger obviously and you play for two points, and for a lot of us it's going to be a first-time experience. So, we're excited for that.
"It's going to be a special day for the whole state of Minnesota. I don't really care what it's going to be like. If it snows or it's going to get cold, I think people in Minnesota will handle that just fine."