This weekend, the Minnesota Wild will take the ice at TCF Bank Stadium for the team’s first-ever outdoor game.
While the Stadium Series is undoubtedly a special event for the entire team, the outdoor game on campus at the University of Minnesota is a little more special for those players that got their start here with the Golden Gophers. Erik Haula is one of those players.
Back to School
Haula, who was drafted 182 overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, became a Golden Gopher back in 2010, and hasn’t left Minnesota hockey ever since. This weekend, he gets a chance to play an outdoor game on the campus where he got his college hockey start.
The native of Pori, Finland, spent three seasons with the Gophers before joining the Houston Aeros in 2012 and then moving up to play with the Minnesota Wild in 2013. Since then, Haula has become a staple on the Minnesota Wild’s roster, and one of the team’s most important players this season.
After being away from the University of Minnesota for almost four seasons, Haula is excited to be back.
“It feels great,” Haula said after the Wild’s Saturday afternoon practice at TCF Bank Stadium. “I [was] here for three years, and I watched them [the Gophers] play one here, and now being able to play one myself, it’s awesome.”
When asked what he thought about the Gopher’s outdoor game in 2014 – the Hockey City Classic – Haula laughed and said it was cold.
“I was outside for a period, and then I called it quits and went inside and watched it. It was great. People stuck with it, and I thought the atmosphere was amazing, but I think you’ve got to win to make it fun. And they were able to do that, and it looked great.”
I think you’ve got to win to make it fun – Erik Haula
Not all Fun and Games
Regardless of whether with Wild win or lose, the Stadium Series is bound to be fun, but Minnesota, its fans and Haula certainly wouldn’t mind a win tomorrow.
“In the situation we’re in, every game is really important right now. We’ve gotta treat it that way. It’s playoff hockey already,” Haula said. “Got to treat it like it’s any other game.”
This campus was Haula’s college home. The 24-year-old is excited to be back playing hockey at the University of Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean he’s not taking the Stadium Series game seriously.
Haula mentioned after practice the importance of being able to block out the atmosphere that will fill TCF Bank Stadium Sunday afternoon, and how important it is to make sure that excitement doesn’t get in the way of playing hockey.
“You’ve got to enjoy it, but you’ve got to enjoy it in the right kind of way,” Haula said. “Just look around in warm-ups, but when the puck drops, I feel like the adrenaline and stuff will take over. Just make sure when you’re on the ice you’re focused…otherwise you’re not mentally in it.”
Haula is prepared to play hockey and not let the crowd distract him, but he’s also ready to enjoy hockey again at the U.
“It’s just another game, but I’m gonna go out there and enjoy it,” the former Gopher smiled and said.