The Minnesota Wild kicked off their four-day summer road tour across parts of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin today.
Defenseman Clayton Stoner and goaltender Darcy Kuemper spent Monday making a stop in Eau Claire, followed by a stop at the Wells Fargo bank in downtown La Crosse to sign autographs and interact with fans.
"It's pretty cool to leave Minnesota, leave the state, come over here to Wisconsin and see how many fans we have over here," said Kuemper. "It gives you a perspective of how big a fan-base we have and how good they are."
With their tour stop in La Crosse, the Minnesota Wild have discovered that the border doesn't necessarily generate a rivalry, at least in the NHL.
"I've been surprised at how passionate people are on this side of the border," said Stoner. "It just goes to show that we have a fan base not just in Minnesota but in other states. It's cool to see."
The team finished last year's lockout-shortened season 7 games over .500 and clinched the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Wild were eliminated in the first round by Chicago.
"We took a step forward by making the playoffs, but nobody was really satisfied with where we ended up losing in the first round," said Stoner. "It was disappointing. Moving forward, I think we have to set our bar high and demand more for the upcoming year, and see if we can't strive to become Stanley Cup champions."
"Definitely took a lot of steps forward and continue to build off of it," added Kuemper.