The 2012-2013 National Hockey League season ends this week. What better time to start thinking about the 2013-2014 NHL season.
The 2013 Minnesota Wild/Wells Fargo Road Tour kicked off a four-day run through the region at The LumberYard Hockey and Sports Center in Stillwater Monday morning with appearances by Wild players Clayton Stoner and Darcy Kuemper and mascot Nordy.
The 7:30 a.m. start was not too early for many St. Croix Valley youngsters to line up for autographs and photos with Stoner, Kuemper and Nordy and receive a free vintage Wild bobblehead.
“It’s fun to meet the fans and see how widespread the fan base is,” Stoner said.
“We have an unreal fan base here,” Kuemper added. “They support us year round. It’s why they’re the best fans in the league.”
Wild Director of Marketing Partnerships Wayne Petersen said the decision to start the team’s annual summer tour in Stillwater was made after Stillwater resident and season-ticket holder Jim Long was selected by the team to host the event.
“We have a contest. A season-ticket holder is selected to pick where to start the event,” Petersen said. “We’ve hosted it in garages, in people’s backyards. Last year, we had a pancake breakfast in St. Paul Park.”
After some discussions, Long and the Wild agreed the LumberYard was the perfect place to start the tour.
LumberYard official Mike Lindeberg said the facility had about a week to prepare for Monday’s hour-long event, adding that the turnout was excellent despite short notice of the event.
“We’ll be happy to do it anytime the Wild want to,” he said.
The Wild delegation at the LumberYard Monday is one of three spending the next three days in communities in North Dakota, Minnesota, western Wisconsin and Iowa before the groups meet Thursday night at the John Rose Oval in Roseville, according to Petersen.
“We have three traveling teams going to 19 cities in three days,” he said. “This group is going to Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. We’ve never been down there before.”
Petersen said the Iowa trip is in conjunction with the move of the Wild’s top farm team from Houston to Des Moines. For Kuemper, the Iowa stops are a chance to see more of the state than just from a vehicle traveling on Interstate 35.
“I’m excited to see the state and what it has to offer,” he said.