DULUTH — What's Lake Superior feel like this time of year?
"Freezing," Marcus Foligno said.
He would know. Foligno and his Wild teammates went for a dip up the North Shore on Monday.
"It woke the brain up a little bit," Foligno said.
The Wild begins the season Friday at Anaheim, but before the team jets off to California, the group ventured north to Duluth for a practice at Amsoil Arena and time to bond as a team — a trip that achieved its objective based on the Lake Superior plunge and banter about the golf tournament.
"It feels like it's been a long training camp," Foligno said Tuesday after the team wrapped up a skate at Minnesota Duluth's home rink. "It's nice to kind of get rewarded with something like this."
While some teams have already started their seasons, the Wild is still in preparation mode.
After using the session on Tuesday in front of fans to emphasize pace, the team will focus on the structure it wants to have against Anaheim when it regroups for another practice on Thursday.
"Then we're excited to get on that plane and get going," coach Dean Evason said.
That'll be the beginning of a more normal setup, with the NHL returning to an 82-game schedule that has teams playing the entire league and not just its division rivals after last season's truncated slate.
"At the end of the last year it got a little repetitive," Nico Sturm said. "Just excited to see some players that I have never played against and see some arenas, some buildings, and some cities, too, that I've never seen."
But COVID-19 is still an issue.
Seattle had four regulars in the NHL's COVID protocols leading up to its first regular-season game on Tuesday night against Vegas. Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon also will miss his team's season opener on Wednesday after testing positive.
Earlier this year, the Wild dealt with this kind of adversity after an outbreak that sidelined more than half its roster shut down its season for almost two weeks. The Wild is fully vaccinated, General Manager Bill Guerin said last month at the outset of training camp.
"We want to get to the season healthy," Foligno said. "We knew what it was like last year getting sick, and we were lucky that we rebounded really well from it. But we don't want to go through that again, and we want to make sure everyone's doing their job to stay healthy."
Although players were around each other last season at the rink and team hotel on road trips, they didn't get the kind of experience they had at cabins near Two Harbors.
On the bus ride there, players talked, listened to music, and played cards. Once settled in their cabins, they had a campfire and shared stories. And they golfed at Northland Country Club.
"We had some guys that weren't expected to win matches and they did," Foligno said. "So, it just goes to show you we're going to get a lot of contributions from everyone on this team this year."
Inside Amsoil Arena, cheers erupted Tuesday as players looped around the ice.
Hockey season has arrived.
Soon, the Wild will join the action.
"It was fun to get a practice in after a fun couple of days," said defenseman Alex Goligoski, who was raised 80 miles away in Grand Rapids. "For them to see the Wild up here is kind of a cool thing. I think everyone enjoyed it: us and them."