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Two decades downtown: A look back at Xcel Energy Center's nearly 20 years

From first goals to big-time shows, the Wild's home ice has become a State of Hockey staple

by Phil Ervin / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire calls it "electric." Paul McCartney's tour promoter once asked if he could put it on wheels and "bring it back to London with us." When he was hired as the Wild's head coach, Bruce Boudreau was struck by the "aura of hockey" in the venue.

Despite its relative measure of seniority in an era of newfangled venues, Xcel Energy Center continues to be regarded around the NHL -- and the entertainment industry at large -- as a frontrunner. The Wild and the City of St. Paul announced Tuesday a 10-year lease extension that keeps Minnesota's NHL club on Kellogg Boulevard through at least 2035.

It's been quite a run in the 6,774 days since Xcel Energy Center first opened its doors to Wild hockey Sept. 29, 2000. Since then, the arena has become home to the State of Hockey's NHL team, the Minnesota State High School League boys and girls state tournaments, countless concerts, comedy acts, big-time performers and appearances. It hosts more than 150 sporting and entertainment events annually, and roughly 1.7 million visitors come through the door each year.

Here's a look back at some of the top moments from throughout the arena's near two-decade run.


Welcome to the neighborhood

The Wild's Sept. 29, 2000 preseason game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim -- a 3-1 Minnesota victory -- marked the team's first time on home ice and the first event in the building's history.


Darby's marker

Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson spent three-plus seasons with the Wild as a player, tallying 29 goals and 31 assists. But perhaps the most memorable was the first, when he scored the club's inaugural regular-season marker Oct. 11, 2000 at 17:19 of the first period in an eventual 3-3 tie with Philadelphia.



The taste of victory

On Oct. 18, 2000, Marian Gaborik and Maxim Sushinsky scored two goals each in the Wild's 6-5 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- the first regular season win at Xcel Energy Center. Goaltender Jamie McLennan made 19 saves.


What. A. Run.

Before Andrew Brunette's historic Game 7 winner at Colorado vaulted the Wild into the second round of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there was Game 6. That's when Richard Park took a setup from Wes Walz and Marian Gaborik and somehow found an opening between Patrick Roy's pads. That gave Minnesota a 3-2 overtime win -- the first home playoff victory in club history -- and set up what would eventually become a Western Conference Finals run.

That Wild club went 25-13-3 at home during the regular season. Gaborik led the team with 65 points (30 goals) in what would go down as Minnesota's deepest playoff jaunt to date.


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Five for home

Marian Gaborik scored five goals and one assist in a 6-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Dec. 20, 2007.

Need we say more?



State of euphoria

There have been some incredible moments during the MSHSL boys and girls state tournaments at Xcel Energy Center. But the six-overtime Class AA semifinal game Feb. 23, 2013 between Minnetonka and Lakeville North remains at or near the top of the list. The 113-minute, 29-second affair is the longest in state tourney history.


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The crowds have been gargantuan, as well. On March 6, 2015, a tourney-record 21,609 fans watched a pair of Class AA boys semifinal games.

Remarkably, the largest Wild crowd at Xcel Energy Center was actually smaller than that. On May 6, 2014, when Minnesota hosted the Chicago Blackhawks for Game 3 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs second round, 19,416 fans stepped through the arena gates.

Country superstar Shania Twain brought the largest concert crowd in venue history, performing before 20,554 fans on Oct. 28, 2003.


Sharing Our Ice

Xcel Energy Center has hosted several world-renowned events in its history, including the 2016 and 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 2018, 2011 and 2002 NCAA Men's Frozen Four, 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 2011 and 2006 USA Gymnastics' Visa Championships, 2008 Republican National Convention, 2004 NHL All-Star Weekend and the 2004 International Ice Hockey Federation World Cup of Hockey.

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