Target Field’s Moment In The Sun
NHL Commissioner lauds home of 2020 NHL Winter Classic and State of Hockey
MINNEAPOLIS — All of the major players responsible for the 2022 NHL Winter Classic landing in Minneapolis converged on home plate at Target Field on a warm, sunny Monday afternoon to discuss the league’s signature mid-season event on New Year’s Day.
As Minnesota Wild Owner & Governor Craig Leipold acknowledged, however, the climate will be vastly different when they all reconvene in The State of Hockey on Jan. 1 to watch the Wild host the St Louis Blues in the 13th NHL Winter Classic.
“What we’re going to remember on Jan. 1 is that we sat out here in the hot sun with sunglasses on and now it’s probably going to be zero degrees,” Leipold said. “It’ll be surreal.”
The game will be the 33rd NHL regular-season outdoor game, and the first of three NHL regular-season outdoor games scheduled for the 2021-22 season, which will all be televised on TNT, Sportsnet and TVA Sports. The game’s 6:00 p.m. scheduled start time guarantees the sun will not be a factor as it has often been in previous outdoor games.
Leipold was joined on Target Field’s playing surface by newly-anointed Wild alternate captains Matt Dumba and Marcus Foligno, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Wild President & Alternate Governor Matt Majka, Wild General Manager Bill Guerin, St. Louis Blues Owner & Governor Tom Stillman, St. Louis President & Alternate Governor Chris Zimmerman, Minnesota Twins Owner and Executive Chair Jim Pohlad, Twins President & CEO Dave St. Peter, Discover Chief Marketing Officer Kate Manfred, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director Mathieu Schneider, and TNT play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert.
Bettman opened his remarks referring to Target Field as “magnificent.”
“When I think ahead three months to New Year’s Day, I have no doubt that we will transform this magnificent stadium into something that will not be recognizable for baseball, but certainly will be for hockey,” Bettman said.
By the end of this season, Bettman said, the league will have played outdoor games in 20 states or provinces and the District of Columbia but added, “No place will have and has a more passionate connection to outdoor hockey than the state of Minnesota.”
The Winter Classic will be Minnesota’s second outdoor game, and second at home. The Wild hosted Chicago in a Feb. 2016 NHL Stadium Series game at what was then known as TCF Bank Stadium (now Huntington Bank Stadium). The Blues will be making their second outdoor game appearance, and second as a Winter Classic participant, having hosted the 2017 contest at Busch Stadium. St. Louis also bested the Blackhawks in its inaugural outdoor game with a 4-1 win over Chicago.
Despite the success of the Stadium Series, Bettman said Leipold always wanted to bring the Winter Classic to Target Field, a pursuit by Leiopold termed relentless by the commissioner, in the best possible way.
“I thought maybe we’d placate him for a few years with the Stadium Series game,” Bettman said. “But I remember, at that game, he said to me, ‘Okay, this is great, I love it, we’re having a great time. When am I getting the Winter Classic?’”
Dumba, who scored the game’s first goal to launch the Wild to a 6-1 win over the Blackhawks that day, said what he drew from his outdoor game experience is the need for a healthy balance of enjoying it all but also staying dialed in and focused.
“Get those two points that night and then you can, you know, have some fun with the family and friends, everyone who’s town, especially on New Year’s,” Dumba said. “I think that’s going to be the kind of thing we’re preaching, is that if we put in the work and stay dialed in then you’re going to reap the rewards from it and just be able to have that whole experience.
“I know when you win that game it’s a lot better than when you lose it. I’ve only won so I want to keep that streak going.”
Tickets to the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic go on sale Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT via Ticketmaster and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last.