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Pete's Point: My time as a 'road team' fan

Echo Journal Publisher Pete Mohs shares his experiences from a Wild game in Nashville.

Wild warmups.jpg
Minnesota Wild hockey fans standing behind the team's bench in Nashville had a closeup view of the pregame skate before facing the Predators on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
Pete Mohs / Echo Journal

A recent trip to Nashville to take in the sights and sounds of country music along Broadway Street offered a rare opportunity to watch a Minnesota sports franchise compete on the road as the Minnesota Wild visited the Nashville Predators in an NHL matchup at Bridgestone Arena.

I’ve watched the Twins play baseball in Houston and Milwaukee, and the Vikings play the Packers at Lambeau Field, but this was the first time I’ve seen the Wild play live as a visiting team.

There were hundreds of fans wearing Wild colors as we walked into the arena on Tuesday, April 5. The Wild and Predators are now Central Division rivals competing for a playoff spot, which intensified the crowd interest for this regular season game.

The Wild came in with a slightly better record thanks to winning nine of its past 10 games, but they cooled off that night as Nashville skated to a convincing 6-2 victory.

I’ve always worn neutral colors when attending sporting events - maybe because of the belief in the back of my mind of being an objective journalist and not cheering in the press box or wearing team colors. But, this time, I gave in and wore my Kirill Kaprizov jersey representing the young Wild star player. Wearing Wild attire did lead to some fun conversations from other Minnesota fans while having dinner downtown and walking to the arena.

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One nice thing about going to an away game is the visiting fans sometimes gain a closeup opportunity to see their hometown favorites - like the year we had a conversation with former Twins manager Tom Kelly during a rain delay at the old County Stadium in Milwaukee.

Meet Wild GM.jpg
Being a visiting fan in Nashville allowed this fan an opportunity to meet Wild general manager Bill Guerin, right, before the Tuesday, April 5, 2022 game.
Pete Mohs / Echo Journal

We arrived early to the Nashville arena, and I was fortunate to run into Wild General Manager Bill Guerin while he was standing in an almost empty upper deck lobby. It was a rare chance to see Guerin and talk briefly about the team’s success this season - making successful roster decisions that have helped the Wild capture their second most wins in team history.

Showing up early also offered a chance to walk down by the ice to join a couple dozen other Wild fans standing behind the Minnesota bench for the pregame skate. And some of the Wild players acknowledged the Wild fans who were watching from behind the team benches.

After warm-ups, it was time to head to our upper level seats. Bridgestone Arena was built about the same time as the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, and the arenas have some of the same features. We experienced that night one of the advantages of the Nashville team - like having a local band perform between periods or having country music star Dierks Bentley in attendance and introduced on the scoreboard video.

As for the game, most of the deflections and bounces went against the Wild.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with more than 500 career wins who was recently acquired by the Wild, took the loss. Fleury struggled early by allowing three first-period goals. The crowd enjoyed heckling Fleury with each goal he surrendered - basically chanting that his play “stunk” and it was “all his fault.”

Veteran goalies like Fleury are normally not affected by the comments. I always remember former NHL netminder and Brainerd resident Glenn “Chico” Resch once talking about his experiences while playing in a visiting arena.

“This fan yelled at me, ‘Chico, go back to Mexico,'” Resch said. “I laughed at him because I’m not from Mexico. He must have thought I was because of my nickname. Overall, the fans don’t bother me.”

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The heckling was uncomfortable being surrounded by Predators fans. I wanted to remind them that the Wild are a much better team than they were witnessing. But it didn’t matter. We just stayed quiet and hoped the visitors would rally.

The Wild did cut their deficit to 4-2 on a goal by Kaprizov late in the second period, but the Predators added two insurance goals in the third period and we left to beat the crowd in the final minute.

It was a memorable experience in the land of country music. Hopefully, next time the Wild will have a better effort in Nashville.

Pete Mohs, publisher, may be reached at 218-855-5855 or pete.mohs@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Facebook.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA WILDHOCKEY
Opinion by Peter Mohs
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