MINNEAPOLIS -- The scene inside TCF Bank Stadium for the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild resembled a party.
But long before the puck dropped Sunday, the celebration in The State of Hockey had already begun.
In the parking lot outside the stadium, Joe Ryan had perhaps the biggest pregame gathering, with about 100 people getting ready for the game. Ryan didn't want to miss the first outdoor NHL game played in Minnesota, so he cut short a vacation to Florida to make it.
"This is too much fun. I would have come from anywhere for this," said Ryan, who grew up in Hibbing, Minn. "This is a must. It's a big deal. This is a game-changer for Minnesota. It's what we do, a winter weekend, we're looking for stuff to do."
Among the people in Ryan's group were fans of all teams, including the Blackhawks, which was evident by a few Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews jerseys at the tailgate.
"We're Minnesotans, everyone is welcome. We're here to have fun," said Ryan, who was holding a tailgate party for the first time. "We ran into these guys at a [Minnesota] Vikings-Chicago Bears game in Chicago and I thought 'You know what, we have to do this sometime.'
"Then, when the Stadium Series came along, I thought let's dial it up." A few feet from Ryan was Mark Kedziora, who left Chicago at 4:30 a.m. Sunday and drove to Minnesota.
"I worked a double yesterday at work then got up early and came here," Kedziora said. "We broke the land-speed record and got up here in about five hours," said his friend Brian Darrey. "When this game was announced, we promised we'd make it here this year."