La Velle E. Neal III
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A State of Hockey committee meeting on Saturday was interrupted by a game between the Wild and the St. Louis Blues.

Committee members arrived at Target Field in various vehicles, with the savvy drivers backing into their parking spots in the ramps around the stadium for a quick exit. Many were in extreme cold weather gear, others layered up so they could wear their Wild sweaters on the outside. No mask mandate was necessary on this night, for few wanted their faces exposed to the bitter cold — until it was time to sip a beverage.

This Winter Classic, one of the crown jewels of the NHL season, offered local fans a chance to let the hockey world know what this state was all about.

Local legend Lou Nanne took the microphone before the game, called the committee "the greatest hockey fans in the world," then counted down from three. At that moment, a full-throated "Let's Play Hockey!" erupted from the stands. Then the fans took their seats.

Wait. No they didn't. There's no sitting at an outdoor hockey game. Fans were on their feet from the start. It was 5.7 below at puck drop and everyone was bundled up. Who wants to sit down.

From their feet, it was easier to yell toward the temporary rink as temperatures fell to 9 below by the third period. They also had an easier view of the Wild's empty net in the third period.

It was the one thing that went wrong on Saturday, as the Wild succumbed under a blizzard of Blues goals in the second period in a 6-4 loss.

There were interlopers among the sellout crowd of 38,619 who came out of hiding near the 5-minute mark of the first period after David Perron buried a shot past Wild goaltender Cam Talbot. St. Louis had a respectable number of fans in the stands, and they ended up making a majority of the noise not long after the frozen faceoff.

The Blues put five pucks past Talbot in the second period and took a 6-2 lead into the second intermission, eventually forcing a goalie change. An intrepid reporter went out into the stands for a few moments during that period to feel the stadium's pulse. Most of the night had been a smash hit, with well-thought-out pregame moments, including a Troy Hudson sighting during puck drop ceremonies.

Several more notable local sports figures also were introduced, with the largest ovation saved for former Twin Tony Oliva, who was recently voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Joe Mauer pitched snowballs to hitters on one side of the stadium. There was a rotation of teams playing on the smaller rinks next to the main sheet, including the Gophers men's hockey team, a few high school teams and even a pond hockey team.

The highlight of the game presentation was when 7-year old actor Adam Christopher Scott of Eden Prairie re-enacted Herb Brooks' speech during "Miracle," drawing a roar from the crowd when his voice rose as he yelled, "Their time is done!"

But the committee was forced to watch the Wild around these moments, and many were yelling their displeasure as the Blues took it to the Wild in the second period. They retreated indoors for warmth after Torey Krug made it 6-2 with less than a minute to play in the period. The Wild tried to replicate some of their comebacks from earlier in the season, hammering Blues goalie Jordan Binnington with 18 shots in the third period and scoring two goals to reduce the deficit to 6-4. This rally, however, fell short.

Everything other than the final score was a smash hit. Fans proved they can't be stopped by weather in the pursuit of a good time. There were plenty of goals scored, even though the interlopers scored more.

Saturday's committee meeting was another example that this game, indeed, is in Minnesotans' blood.