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Snow Day: Wild Practices Outdoors

by Ryan Stanzel / Minnesota Wild

In the half decade the Wild has taken it outdoors for practice, there have been a variety of weather scenarios — mostly sunny and cold.

Today, at the Wild’s outdoor practice at The John R. Rose OVAL in Roseville, presented by Audi Minneapolis and Audi St. Paul, it was a picturesque setting. Four days before Christmas, giant snowflakes fell as the Wild skated outside for 30 minutes, after more than 2,000 fans reveled in holiday activities for two hours.

Prior to the Wild taking the ice, fans skated for 90 minutes on the outer portion of The OVAL. Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand, as well as a handful of reindeer, which all made for great photo opps.

“This really brought me back to the first Winter Classic,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after, with a Santa-like twinkle in his eye. “(Outdoor hockey) is hopefully something our fans will get to experience here sometime soon.”

The Wild primarily played shinny. Lots of laughing could be heard, none more than when Jason Zucker went leaping over the “boards” (think border patrol) backwards. The Lighthouse is happy to report that Zucker is fine.

“It wasn’t a structured practice,” said Yeo, noting the players elected to forego a scheduled day off to practice in front of the fans. “It’s great for them to come out and meet these fans and go back to their roots.”

Another funny moment came at “intermission”, when Yeo called for the shovels. The snow buildup had become intimidating, so they had to clear it away. The rookies went first, but even veterans Matt Cooke and Thomas Vanek joined in cleaning the ice.

The team likely spent as much time signing autographs for fans along the boards as they did practicing.

“It was a lot of fun,” said a beaming Wild captain Mikko Koivu, his left glove wrapped in snow. “It’s a fun way of spending a morning, getting relaxed. It brings back a lot of memories from when you’re a kid. It feels amazing to have the fans out here even when the weather wasn’t that great."

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