ST. PAUL -- The normally quiet bowels of Xcel Energy Center were buzzing with action on Thursday as Minnesota Wild players were shuttled from station to station, completing their preseason obligations on Media Day.
After a long summer away from the arena, some players were catching up with their teammates, asking how the offseason went.
"It's like the first day of school," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "You get to see everybody again and it should be exciting. If you love your job, it's an exciting time of the year."
Boudreau, a veteran of media day, was roaming the halls of the building in his black suit and purple tie early, getting as much out of the way before lines of players slowed everything down.
Chris Stewart, another veteran, was quick to dress in full equipment, knowing the onslaught of guys later in the morning would delay his arrival home on his final day of the offseason before practice officially begins on Friday.
Stewart, who played for Boudreau last season in Anaheim, knows what awaits in the morning. He said Wednesday that last year's training camp was one of the most difficult he'd experienced in his almost 10 years in the NHL.
Reminded of that fact, Boudreau smiled.
"It starts off with a skate test the first day but we want to ramp it up as quick as we can," Boudreau said. "We want to have a lot of pace in our practice even though it's a real mixture because we have to teach it at the same time. It's not gonna be like a practice in December but at the same time, we don't want anything slow. We want a lot of moving parts in practice."
Before the parade to different stations begins, players arrive and begin fitness and baseline medical testing to make sure they are ready to go. Media Day also features a skate test that has become easier through the years as players have started taking their offseason fitness more seriously.
"Are they fun? Probably not, but it keeps everyone honest," said Wild forward Jason Pominville. "You have to [stay in shape] now-a-days, you can't not do anything throughout the summer. It would be noticeable. Everyone is in shape, everyone has been here awhile, everyone has skated and worked out with [Wild strength coach] Sean [Skahan] for awhile."
All the testing and parading can add up to a long day for players, but when Media Day shows up on the calendar each year, it means one thing: Hockey season is close.
And with a new coaching staff around this season, most players said they were excited to get going.
"It's an exciting day; it's a long day, but it's exciting, everyone is excited to be back and get going," Pominville said. "I think tomorrow is when everyone is going to be excited. Tomorrow is the day one, where you go on the ice finally.
"Coaches are probably excited about that as well. We just want to go out there and play have fun on the ice, that's what it's all about."