WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- The passion for hockey is real in Iowa. With their postseason lives on the line, the Iowa Wild had fans, who gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings in West Des Moines, on the edge of their seats. "I think what you are seeing tonight is a real testament to the commitment they have for pro hockey in Des Moines," said Fred James.
While they cheered for a series finale victory to move on, team president Todd Frederickson still remembers trying to get others excited about hockey in the Hawkeye State six years ago. "We've just been working on growing the game the last few years and that has been a big part of our community plan to introduce people to the sport. Once they come out and experience hockey, they will become hockey fans for life," Frederickson said.
In a state known for agriculture, consider this playoff run growing season. "People used to say 'What is the Iowa Wild?' That is pro hockey and slowly as the brand was identified with Des Moines more people understood and got on the bandwagon," James said.
This season the Wild set team records with 37 wins and 87 points. The victories helped set a total attendance record of over 243,000, which helped create this now rabid fan base. "To show up at the arena to see all the people there, it is getting loud and noisy. People are passionate for the Iowa Wild," said James.
No matter when their playoff fate ends, these fans and players on the ice are proving that hockey lives and thrives in Iowa. James said, "No doubt about hockey in Des Moines, Iowa. It is here to stay.
There were two additional watch parties at the Merle Hay Buffalo Wild Wings and at Buzzard Billy's in downtown Des Moines.
The Wild ended up holding on to defeat the Milwaukee Admirals, 2-1. With that win, the Wild advance to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. They will face the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday.