Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/17/13
ST. PAUL, Minn. Zach Isenor was one of the thousands of fans to show up at the Xcel Energy Center Wednesday night, courtesy of the free tickets given away by the Minnesota Wild. He waited in line, like many others, just for the chance to enter the Hockey Lodge and purchase team gear that was 50 percent off during Minnesota's "Wild Wednesday" promotion. For Isenor, who lives in South St. Paul, there was no doubt his fandom wasn't going to change despite the NHL's lockout. "Didn't sway us at all," Isenor said Wednesday during the free intrasquad scrimmage. But Isenor has seen the other effects of a lockout. The Minnesota native lived in Florida when the NHL went through a lockout in 2004-05 that wiped out the entire season. Isenor enjoys hockey, so he returned then, just as he has now. But Isenor saw many fans didn't return, at least not immediately, in the sunbelt. "It wasn't the same deal," Isenor said. "It was an empty stadium. You were there kind of just because it was hockey. In Minnesota, hockey's a different animal." Yes it is. As part of a weeklong training camp, the Wild had their minor-league team, the Houston Aeros, in Minnesota to help prepare for the season, which kicks off with a home game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. Combining Houston's team with the Wild's training camp roster, Minnesota had a full scrimmage Wednesday night, pitting a Red vs. White team, and handed out free tickets. Over 13,000 fans made their way to the arena forthe scrimmage. "It was great to come out there for warm-up and see that many fans and to come out for the starting lineup to see it even more packed in," said defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who scored two goals in the scrimmage and added a score in the shootout. "It was awesome to see we still have that support even though we have that long wait." The excitement reached a fever pitch last summer when Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter were the top two free agents and created a frenzy in which there were probably less teams linked to the two stars than not. But it was Minnesota which snagged both of the free-agent prizes. Interest in the Wild was as high as it had been since 2003 whenit made a run to the Western Conference finals. Then the lockout happened, and Minnesota had to wait months to see Parise and Suter in Wild sweaters other than for their introductory press conferences last July. The fans got that chance Wednesday. The scrimmage began with the customary "Let's Play Hockey" but this time it was more symbolic. The Wild had their team on the ice ready to play hockey. "Pretty excited, glad for it to finally be back," said Shawn Westling, from Shakopee. "Been waiting for it." Westling is on the Wild's season-ticket waiting list. He didn't purchase tickets right away. "Been waiting for them to come back before I bought," Westling said. Single-game tickets went on sale on Wednesday at 8 a.m. Pat Vos, from Minneapolis, didn't want to lose his shot to buy single-game tickets. He was in line, waiting in the Xcel Center lobby, at 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday. He arrived so early, arena security wasn't sure where to make him wait. After some phone calls, he was eventually let into the lobby and was set up with his folding chair, waiting patiently. Vos, who says his claim to fame was being the first person in line for single-game tickets five straight years, took Tuesday evening off work at the University of Minnesota to wait in line. "It was a tough pill to swallow there at first," Vos said of the lockout. "Nobody wanted to believe it, especially this being the state of hockey and stuff. I was finding myself with a lot of idle time not going to the games." But Vos returned as soon as the Wild did, and knew the Minnesota fans would follow. "I think Minnesota fans are pretty much on board with coming back," Vos said. "I would think 90 percent, as opposed to some of the slower teams down south. This is a hockey mecca, pretty much, so to speak. If fans don't come back here, they wouldn't come back anywhere I wouldn't think." Such as Florida. Isenor has seen what can happen in areas where the game isn't adored as it is in Minnesota. Isenor is happy for any season, even if it's a condensed, crazy 48 games in 99 days. Being in the building again and seeing Parise and Suter, has Isenor excited for hockey once again. "The team's the real deal this year," Isenor said. "I understand (fans being upset with the lockout), but I think this environment and this atmosphere is so fun that you can't give up on it. How can you? I don't know. That's my feeling." And, at least in Minnesota, the feeling of many. Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

A-Rod is (inadvertently) hurting the Yankees

Report: CM Punk to have back surgery, UFC debut delayed

John Elway: 2015 Broncos could be best defense ever

Lakers and Cavs discussed Kobe-LeBron trade in 2007

Report: Hiring Scott Brooks could help Knicks land Durant

Report: Tyreke Evans to undergo surgery, miss rest of season


Sabathia on post-rehab health: The best I've felt in three years

Carmelo Anthony says he's putting his trust in Phil Jackson

Lynn Swann: Calvin Johnson not a Hall of Famer

NFL requiring background checks for combine participants

Rams owner buys massive 520,000-acre Texas ranch

Cam Newton explains why he did not dive on fumble

Craig Sager: From the brink of death to the NBA All-Star Game

Michael Oher slid backwards during play in Super Bowl 50

Magic interested in Blake Griffin trade?

Brandon Marshall on Newton’s presser: ‘You can’t do that’

Oscillation, thy name is Pablo Sandoval

Mat Latos could be the steal of free agency

WATCH: Blackhawks coach walks out of press conference

Greg McElroy: Cam Newton 'quit on his team'

Tennis umpires secretly banned over gambling issues

WATCH: Dancing Kentucky fan slides down rail, fails

Clemson LB has great response to NFL draft analyst's criticism

Former Aggies QB Kyle Allen reveals culture problems at Texas A&M

Roy Williams collapses during game vs. BC

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker