Marcus Foligno talked about the butterflies on Monday afternoon. Now a decade into his NHL career, the 30-year-old winger still gets them before games. Especially the home opener.
Same goes for captain Jared Spurgeon.
“It’s an exciting day,” Spurgeon said. “Everyone looks forward to the first home game and just coming out of that tunnel and seeing the fans for the first time in a while.”
Even coach Dean Evason, usually a stoic figure behind the bench, admitted to getting lost in the moment from time to time.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Evason said. “What a great life we all have and to go out there and be in front of 20,000 people or whatever it is and play the game that we grew up loving and all of that. I hope every player has butterflies before every single game.”
That said, the home opener on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center held a little more meaning considering how much life has been impacted by the pandemic over the past 18 months. The game between the Wild and the Winnipeg Jets marked the first time since March 3, 2020 — a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators — that the X was allowed to be packed to full capacity.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Evason said. “We talked about looking forward to coming out of the tunnel, and I’m sure the players are too. There will be butterflies. We are excited about playing in front of our fans. Just talking to people in the community, how excited they are to get here and watch us live is exciting.”
There were some fans at the X last season during the playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Per the COVID protocols back in May, the Wild were allowed to fill their home rink to 25 percent capacity, which equated to about 4,500 fans.
Not exactly the same as having 18,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs.
“You definitely miss the momentum swings you can get from just having that home crowd behind you,” Spurgeon said. “It’s awesome and we have very passionate fans, so we’re really looking forward to having them back.”
The only thing Evason was worried about ahead of the home opener was his players possibly getting consumed by the moment.
“Just trying to talk to the guys about not getting too amped up and too excited, because we’ve got to play a hockey game the way that the Minnesota Wild play the game of hockey,” Evason said. “Not try to be too cute and try to put on a show. Just play our game.”
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That was how the Wild were approaching things ahead of the home opener.
For the third straight game, goaltender Cam Talbot got the start between the pipes, with fellow goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen as the backup. Additionally, winger Rem Pitlick and defenseman Jordie Benn were the lone healthy scratches.
“You’d like to get everybody in. You don’t want people sitting for too long” Evason said. “They both get it where we’re at and that we’d love to get them in. They will be ready to play when called upon.”
With power rankings coming out a week into the regular season, some pundits have the Wild ranked as high as No. 1 in the league.
While that might be a little bit premature, it speaks to the national buzz that’s starting to build around the Wild.
Not that Evason would know it.
“I don’t read or look at anything,” Evason said. “I have no idea. Honestly, I have no idea.”