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In hockey circles, Minnesota can in some ways be considered a major market. The Wild have a beautiful arena, a dedicated fan base and a hockey heritage where children sometimes are put on ice skates before they can walk.
But 12 years into the franchise's existence, the fans were getting restless while watching a starless team miss the playoffs year after year.
The franchise was desperately in need of an adrenaline shot. It got two.
In the days since, fans have burned up the phone lines, gobbling up nearly 2,000 season tickets and buying every piece of memorabilia with "Parise" or "Suter" on it that they can get their hands on.
"We were not expecting this," Leipold said. "We knew there would be a great reaction. We just didn't know it would ever reach this size."
Now the challenge is to keep the momentum going. Winning games, of course, will probably be the biggest key to making Minnesota an attractive destination for future free agents.
But seeing two stars choose Minnesota over Detroit, New Jersey, New York and Chicago, and seeing a fan base respond to a sport that is not as high-profile as it once was will certainly grab attention as well.
"I think people see the warm welcome we're getting right now," Suter said. "They see how much commitment the owner shows. That says a lot for players. We're going to try to help get as many free agents here as we can."
This is only the beginning, Suter said.
"I think Minnesota IS a big-time market," he said. "I think it's going to get even bigger."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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