Fans warm up at free festival before NHL Winter Classic


MINNEAPOLIS — Below-zero temperatures didn’t stop fans from partaking in the Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame fan festival ahead of the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field on Saturday. 

Interactive attractions and food were inside Target Center, home to the National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Timberwolves, and on the outdoor concourse. 

Fans dressed in snowsuits, hats, face coverings and even a few ski goggles and still managed to represent their respective teams in jerseys and colors. 

“We thought [wearing ski goggles] was going to be ridiculous,” Katie Gerringerr of St. Louis said of her husband’s idea. “Now with how cold it is, it’s not such a bad idea.” 

Dwight and Dalton Burkhalter from Minneapolis wore a handknit sweater and Wild onesie, respectively.

“It’s like a warm hug from grandma,” Dwight said of the sweater his grandmother made for him. “Not a chance we were missing this.”

Dalton added, “We’re ready for the cold, and ready for a Wild win.”

The warm gear came in handy for outdoor activities such as an oversized air hockey table, presented by Discover, as well as other sponsor booths and live bands.

Inside, fans were treated to a live DJ, photo ops, shooting skills and target practice along with a bubble hockey competition — one game going down between Turner Sports analysts Keith Jones and Darren Pang (no ‘official’ winner of the game was declared of that contest). 

“It’s been a lot of indoors early on, getting ready for outdoors tonight,” Jones said. “It’s been a great time, a great atmosphere meeting a lot of fans. It’s been fabulous. These people are gonna show how pumped they are.” 

Pang called both the Blues and Wild fans ‘hearty’ 

“The fans have come in droves,” Pang said. “This year I was really impressed with the setting. I think it’s going to be phenomenal. The fishing pond, the outdoor thing, the wood logs — it looks like Minnesota.” 

And if the fan fest was any indication, you can expect plenty of energy no matter the temperatures at puck drop. 

“We’ve got our hand warmers, our feet warmers, we’re ready to go,” Gerringerr said. “We can’t wait.” 

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