I’ve done my best to worry as little as possible about the possibility of a lockout-impacted season.
However, I cannot deny a little melancholy this weekend as it was supposed to be what has become my favorite Saturday in September, single game ticket on-sale day. It was supposed to be this past Saturday. I’m not hardcore enough to camp out for a few days to be first in line, but I enjoy that the Minnesota Wild still has fans that do this. Usually tickets go on sale at 9am, and arriving an hour or two before that is usually good enough to ensure the tickets I want to get. I’ve never been a season ticket holder, and I probably will never be, but this day is the gathering for people like this.
Thinking about why I enjoy this day, I can trace it back to the year 2002. I would be a Junior in college in Winona (or as this year would eventually be known, the year before the first of my three senior years), and it would be the start of the 3rd season in Minnesota Wild history. After settling for what I could watch of the Minnesota Wild on TV (remember this was before every game on TV was the norm it is today), this was the year I decided I needed to see an NHL game in person.
I was 11 years old when the North Stars left and the one and only game I saw in person at the Met Center was in their final season in 1993, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Red Wings. (I remember Dave Ganger being the lone goal scorer by the way, and goaltender Jon Casey made a puckhandling error behind the net that led to the Wings’ 3rd goal.)
Even with two unremarkable seasons, Wild tickets were a tough get then, much tougher than today. But I had determination, and I had an aunt and cousin willing to come along for the ride. Even though my aunt hadn’t been to a game since the 70s and her daughter, well had never been at all.
Online ticketing was still a relatively new, and it seems like the best way to ensure seats on the first day of sales. I had a list of dates, and after not being able to get seats for the first few games, we got seats in section 107, row 23 for a game on November 2 against Vancouver. (By the way these were only $60 each then.) After winning something like 9 of their first 11 games, this matchup would prove to be an early test of the Northwest Division leaders. The Wild would get ahead on two early goals only to squander it and fall 4-2, but the three of us were hooked then. We managed to scrounge tickets for another game in March against Nashville (which the Wild won) and playoff tickets for game six against Vancouver. (A 5-1 trouncing of the Canucks which I’m convinced is the reason Roberto Luongo sucks in St. Paul to this day.)
There would be one more season after this before the lockout took the 2005-06 season away. After the lockout, my aunt and cousin would work their way through the Warming House and eventually become season ticket holders for a season during my last year at college. It’s been a point of personal pride that I’ve made every home-opener since the lockout season, and a tradition I’d like to continue.
My affinity for ticket on-sale day took a turn for the better in 2009. I had a 3rd shift job in Inver Grove Heights working 10:30pm until 7am. After leaving in the morning, instead of driving home, I thought I’d just drive through downtown St. Paul to see the fans lined up. Well I couldn’t resist the call. Armed with decent wad of cash in my pocket from winning at Canterbury Park the night before going into work, I decided I could hang out with my fellow Wild fans until the windows opened at 9am. The team does right by the folks waiting in line, free coffee, soda, and muffins are always nice, and despite the fatigue of being awake nearly 24 hours, I found the experience quite enjoyable. The next year my mother decided to join me, and then of course in 2011 when my mom and I were in line this happened (:28, right after what seems now to be an unfortunate prediction.)
Television is nice, but the game will always be best when seen with your own eyes. Buying tickets on the first day just builds that excitement. Given the current circumstances in labor, I am glad the Wild postponedthe on-sale until a deal is in place. I’d hate to buy home opener tickets only to find out I should’ve bought tickets for the 3rd or 5th scheduled home game instead. However, I am a little sad that yesterday I missed out on a day on which I’ve enjoyed. A day that now has tradition in my family, and it is the first day that signals to me, that hockey is near.
I’m still trying to remain optimistic that a deal is made soon. When it is, the team will name a date, and I’ll again be in line a couple hours early.