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Seasons Turn

Fans take in electric postseason Twins baseball, Wild season opener atmospheres.

Fans wave red, green and white illuminated Wild towels in a dark Xcel Energy Center prior to the team's season opener against the Florida Panthers. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

The hot, steamy days of summer have given way to an autumn chill that often creeps into Minnesota throughout October. Just as the seasons cycle through each year, so do the sports seasons. Minnesota Twins fans were treated to six Postseason games – four at Target Field – turning the excitement and relief of ending a historic losing streak into a bit of disappointment as the season ended this week.

The very next night, the Minnesota Wild opened their season across the river at Xcel Energy Center. Fans turned the page quickly to all the hope and promise a new season offers.

“It was kind of whiplash,” said Melissa Berman. “Obviously the Twins season ended on Wednesday night, and then right the next day, the Wild opened.

“I think it was really helpful for people to have something to immediately turn our attention to.”

Berman, a dedicated Minnesota sports fan across multiple sports (she attended more than 60 regular-season Twins games in both 2022 and 2023), attended all four home Postseason Twins games. But many months before the Twins popped champagne on an American League Central Division title, Berman purchased tickets to the Wild’s season opener on Oct. 12. Because she’s always wanted to go to a sporting event on her birthday.

Brock Faber and Jonas Brodin on the ice against Florida. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Luckily for her, and a lot of Minnesota fans, there was no overlap in the Twins and Wild schedule. The Twins lost games three and four to the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series on Tuesday and Wednesday, though an if-necessary Game Five was slated for Friday night. The Wild opener was sandwiched in the middle, giving fans like Berman a chance to be present at both instead of streaming a baseball game on her phone from her seat at Xcel Energy Center.

Berman went from sellout crowds of 40,000-plus in the open-air Target Field waving red Homer Hankies to a packed crowd of 18,000-plus at the X waving lighted towels in a dark arena during pregame introductions.

“The light-up towels were incredible,” Berman said. “I had never seen something like that before.”

The Wild towels had either red, green or white lights along the edges with three different settings to blink slow, fast or stay illuminated.

Saul Stensvaag, of Inver Grove Heights, also thought the towels were a nice touch. He attended the Wild game with his wife, Mary Kay, after taking in Game Three of the ALDS with his son Ken. The Stensvaags get to at least a half-dozen Wild games a season, and Saul purchased tickets to the opener earlier in the week because he just couldn’t wait for hockey season to get started.

“I’m glad that I went ahead and bought the tickets,” Stensvaag said. “I paid more than I usually do, but it was worth it.

“It’s the beginning of the season and just seeing a lot of the prospects that the Wild has, I think we’re very optimistic.”

Sure, comparing the Postseason games for the Twins and a regular-season, home opener for the Wild isn’t exactly apples to apples. But there were still a lot of similarities and crossover. Stensvaag thought both crowds at Target Field and Xcel Energy Center were fantastic.

Former Twins players Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wave to the crowd during the Wild game Oct. 12. (MHM Photo / Heather Rule)

“The Wild have an advantage at the X because it’s an easier place to do really impressive stuff like with the lighted towels… the laser show and the video,” Stensvaag said.

Even some of the crowd interaction was the same. Bon Jovi’s “Livin On A Prayer” blared over the Target Field sound system Wednesday, while the same song was featured on the Crowd Karaoke videoboard segment at the X.

While the Target Field videoboard captured Wild players attending the Postseason baseball games as fans – Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy were each featured to end the popular Celebrity Look-Alike segment in between innings – some familiar former Twins attended the Wild game Thursday. In-arena and TV cameras showed former players Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and their former manager Ron Gardenhire watching hockey together in a suite.

On the ice against Stanley Cup finalist Florida Panthers, Wild rookie defenseman, playing in only his ninth NHL game (third in the regular season), Brock Faber gave the crowd something to cheer about when his first-period blast from the point made it through traffic for his first NHL goal and point.

His goal came about 24 hours after young phenom Royce Lewis hit a home run for a 1-0 Twins lead. Youngster Edouard Julien also homered in the game. For the Wild, 22-year-old Marco Rossi scored a pretty goal that was negated due to an off-side call, and 25-year-old Filip Gustavsson was spectacular with a 41-save shutout. It’s all the young talent on both rosters that keeps fans optimistic for the future.

 “It’s just really encouraging to see these young players on both the Twins and the Wild rise up to their leadership positions and come through in big moments for their teams,” Berman said. “And it makes me hopeful that both teams are going to have a lot of success for the future as these players continue to develop.”

Brock Faber and Matt Boldy embrace after Faber’s first NHL goal. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Faber, a Maple Grove native, also attended a couple of Twins games in the past couple of weeks with his teammates, including game two of the Wild Card series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Being at Target Field for a game the Twins eventually won 2-0 to advance in the postseason for the first time since 2002 was a great environment, Faber said.

A little more than a week later, Faber was playing in front a crowd that was still just as loud and engaged for a season opener to get hockey season started.

The Wild defeated the Panthers 2-0, the same score the Twins used to beat the Blue Jays in Game Two last week.

“It was super cool. It felt like a playoff environment,” Faber said. “Fans were loud, the towels were out. It was everything you could ever imagine. Just glad we could come out of here with a win.”  

The Wild already started out this season better than the last, which came with a 0-3 start. As the summer and baseball chapters close for another year, the autumn (and winter is coming soon) and hockey book is just starting. The optimism for a new season is there. Berman encourages fans to attend in-person to soak in the atmosphere. Stensvaag will return to the X again soon, too.

“I just love being there,” Stensvaag said. “Win or lose.”  

To see additional photos from the Wild vs. Panthers game on Oct. 12, 2023, click here.

Heather's love for watching hockey started when the Minnesota Wild came to town in 2000. Before that, she caught a few Minnesota Moose games as a youngster, and more recently she's kept up with the Austin Bruins and Fargo Force. She's a writer, freelance journalist and blogger who previously worked as a news reporter in Austin and Fergus Falls, Minn. She enjoys watching sports and closely follows the Wild, Minnesota Twins, IndyCar Series, tennis and prep sports. Heather keeps up her sports blog Thoughts from the Stands. You can follow her on Twitter/X @hlrule or Instagram @hlrule.

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