Wild bring out plenty of Minnesota sports stars at Winter Classic

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Nothing says cold quite like Minnesota in January, but even frigid conditions couldn’t dampen a beautiful opening ceremony at the 2022 NHL Discover Winter Classic at Target Field.

The Minnesota Wild welcomed Staff Sergeant John Kreiesel, a veteran of the Iraq War who underwent 35 surgeries and nine months of rehab after his unit was ambushed, to raise the American Flag before the game.

Singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” was Singers of This Age, a group of Minneapolis/St. Paul-area high school students, conducted by G. Phillip Shultz. 

After the national anthem, there were multiple puck drops around the main ice on indivdual replica pond-like surfaces, celebrating sports in Minnesota with the kind of outdoor hockey played in North America.

University of Minnesota hockey players Sammy Walker and Emily Brown, University of Minnesota-Duluth alumnus Kyle Schmidt, from the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, guard Rachel Banham, Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Fred Emmings, former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Troy Hudson and former Minnesota Vikings tackle and Football Hall of Fame member John Randle all represented the state.

On the main sheet, former Minnesota Twins all-stars Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Kent Hrbek and Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Oliva dropped the ceremonial first puck between St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly and Wild defenseman and Minnesota native Alex Goligoski.

After the puck drop, there was one more surprise in store for fans. The Wild’s all-tme leader in wins by a goalie, Niklas Backstrom, joined former forward Mikko Koivu, the team’s leader in games played, on stage.

Together, along with former Minnesota North Stars player and general manager Lou Nanne to lead the crowd in an exclamation of “Let’s Play Hockey!”

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