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Wild experiences New York traffic jam on way to New Jersey

Game against Devils delayed nearly 30 minutes after traffic accident shut down Holland Tunnel

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

NEWARK, N.J. -- Whether it was fate or chance that made pre-game drama for the Wild, perhaps we'll never know. 

With two busses parked outside the team hotel preparing to take Wild players and staff the 13 miles from Manhattan to Newark, N.J., the next three hours would be changed because of ... how the busses were parked. 

Players filled one bus outside the club's hotel, parked in a street facing the east. A dozen or so staff and media filed onto the other on an adjacent street facing north. 

That's where they parted, not to be seen together again for three hours. 

As the staff bus departed and headed north, turning to go west at 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan and eventually to the Lincoln Tunnel, the players bus started east, then south, then west towards New Jersey to get to the Holland Tunnel. 

The two tunnels, separated by just a couple of miles under the Hudson River, couldn't have experienced a more different afternoon commute as travelers filed out of Manhattan on the night before Thanksgiving. 

While the staff bus had a relatively easy 75 minute commute from the hotel to the Prudential Center, arriving shortly after 5 p.m., the players bus ran into problems as it approached the Holland. 

"We took a nice beautiful, scenic route in New York City. It was awesome," Wild forward Marcus Foligno said, tongue planted firmly in his cheek. "We had to show Kirill a little more. The young guys really took it in."

An accident completely closed down the tunnel, forcing the bus to navigate through Manhattan during rush hour to get to the same Lincoln Tunnel staffers had gone through an hour earlier. 

That turned out to be far more difficult than one could imagine. 

"There was nowhere to turn, especially with a big bus. There was really nothing we could do, we weren't really sure what was going to happen," said Wild forward Ryan Hartman. "We didn't know if they were going to cancel the game or not, but we were not moving and there's nothing we could have done."

Stranded in impossible New York traffic and barely moving for more than an hour, players finally portaged the Hudson River sometime around 5:45 p.m., nearly two hours after leaving the hotel located roughly two miles from their origin. 

By then, the staff bus had been parked and unloaded at Prudential Center for more than a half hour. Coach Dean Evason - who left the hotel with the coaching staff mid-afternoon - had already done pre-game availability.

With warmups scheduled to commence at 6:29 p.m. local time, and puck drop set for 7:08, coaches and trainers - who also made their way over early - began nervously checking their watches. 

Six o'clock came and went. So did 6:15 and then 6:20. 

Normal pregame routines were completely out the window.

"Usually get a bike ride in. Didn't do that," said Wild goaltender Cam Talbot. "Little bit of a warmup. Just activation all that kind of stuff, there was no time for really any of that. It was pretty much get dressed, tape your stick and get the pads on ... just go out there and get ready to play the game."

Eventually, NHL officials as well as Wild GM Bill Guerin and Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald - buddies from their days together in the front office with the Pittsburgh Penguins - came to an agreement that the game would need to be delayed in order for the players to safely warmup. 

Finally, at 6:26 p.m., the players bus pulled up to Prudential Center, and one minute later, one happy group of Wild players lined up and piled into the dressing room.

And for good reason: The music got going once the wheels hit New Jersey pavement.

"We had a little bit of a dance party as we got closer and police escort was on the way, so the boys were in a light mood," Foligno said. "That's been our motto all year. That's been the character of our team that we don't let a lot of things get to us and we just stay even keel. 

"We were playing 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' on the bus, things like that, a little meditation before the game. These are things you can't control and we've got a close group."

After 33 minutes of prepping equipment and getting in a stretch, players filed onto the ice for their first bit of normalcy of the night: pre-game warmups.

As it turned out, the Wild wouldn't be affected much by the change in schedules; Minnesota scored twice in the first period and got some steady goaltending from Cam Talbot en route to a 3-2 shootout win. 

"It happened," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "You guys have heard us talk about when the puck drops it doesn't matter what the hell has happened before. And it didn't."

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