The ice was reflecting the sun’s warm gaze at the John Rose OVAL in Roseville, as the Minnesota Wild played the game in its purest form, outside. With the weekend’s snowfall still clinging to the surrounding pines and a slight breeze scattering the fresh ice shavings, about 2,000 fans bundled up and came out to watch the Wild break into two teams and scrimmage at the outdoor rink, presented by Audi of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
It was a picturesque day to have a little bit of outdoor fun before the club buckles down for the home stretch after the Olympic break. The teams broke into Green and White for a four-on-four scrimmage, with Green winning the first-to-five contest. White’s punishment was a hot lap and even with the loss, the players had wide windswept grins as they circled the OVAL in front of the crowd.
The team then held a last-to-score shootout competition, much to the delight of fans, with the contest coming down to defensemen Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner. It looked like Ballard would win the skills contest, but Stoner scored to force another round. After a Ballard miss, Stoner avoided a Darcy Kuemper poke check and scooped the puck into the empty net as he slid along the ice, tripped up by Kumper’s stick. Ballard’s punishment, if you could call it that, was go down the line on both sides of the rink and give the fans standing along the boards a high-five.
After the practice and shootout, the players signed autographs and posed for pictures with the cheerful fans. Despite the weekend’s strenuous snowfall that had drivers slowing to a crawl on roads and highways, it was a reminder of how Minnesota’s winter can quickly turn around and produce a perfect day to play on an outdoor rink.
The Wild will return to Xcel Energy Center tomorrow for practice and play its first game after the break in Edmonton on Thursday.