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Friday, May 9

Updated: May 21, 1:29 PM ET

Wild fans welcome 'their sport' in West finals

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild hadn't even finished off the Canucks in Vancouver on Thursday night before fans began lining up inside Xcel Energy Center in pursuit of tickets for the Western Conference finals.

The Wild's historic comeback from a second consecutive 3-1 series deficit excited fans so much that they had to be moved away from Shrine Circus animals at the arena for shows Friday through Sunday. Arena officials worried that the fans were scaring the animals and workers needed more room to set up for Friday's two performances.

Greg Paul, 20, and Tom Thole, 21, waited outside in the rain until arena officials moved most of the crowd inside just after midnight. While fans weren't required to stay overnight, Paul and Thole chose to sleep just outside the Xcel doors in sleeping bags.

Several people in line -- Paul and Thole included -- said they'd hoped to see the Wild play Dallas in the playoffs. But with the Stars eliminated early, some fans said they didn't mind a chance to beat up on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks as payback for the Anaheim Angels' elimination of the Minnesota Twins in last year's American League Championship Series.

"Redemption with Anaheim would be sweet,'' said Paul, a roofer from Cottage Grove. "This is our sport.''

Neil Alexander, 20, was in line hoping to get hockey tickets for himself and his dad. Alexander fondly recalled the days his father took him to North Stars games.

"If I can't get them here, I'd pay up to $500 from scalpers,'' Alexander said. "I just want to take my dad to a game.''

The Wild said about 1,000 tickets were available for each playoff game -- Games 1, 2 and 5. The team took names and had a plan to hand out wristbands to permit ticket-buying Friday morning.

People who had tickets for Saturday's canceled circus performance were permitted to exchange them at the box office for performances Friday or Sunday or get a refund.
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