The Perfect Record
Tuesday, 03.02.2010 / 12:59 PM / Minnesota Wild | Features
By Ben Palosaari - Special to Wild.com
And while the Team of 18,000’s composition changes from night to night during this astounding run of packed houses, there are a few faces in the crowd that have seen more great Wild moments than others.
Like, say, every single Wild moment at the Xcel Energy Center. But the Wild perfect attendance award doesn’t get handed out all that often. Even the most rabid Wild fans, in their darkest moments, would admit to missing a game once or twice in nine seasons. That’s not the case for Mary Letourneau and Eva McClellan, two Wild fans that have yet to miss a game on home ice.
Letourneau says hockey wasn’t even a serious part of her life until she became an adult. Sure, her dad would flood their back yard in winter when she was a child, but the NHL wasn’t something she paid much attention to until somebody happened to give her tickets to her first NHL game in the late ’80s.
“I was given a pair of North Star tickets. I thought ‘OK, it’s something to do.’ But after that, I got hooked. After only seeing five NHL games, I put down money on North Stars season tickets,” she said.
It was a similar path for McClellan, who says she grew up in a Vikings family, not a North Stars family. She credits hometown hero Neal Broten’s success with turning her into a hockey fan during high school.
“In high school, every spare penny I had went to North Star tickets,” she says.
Now though, McClellan proudly proclaims that she has converted her football family into a hockey family, and she shares three season tickets with her mother and brother.
McClellan recalls that the Wild’s first pre-season game in 2000 was an emotional experience for her.
“I was crazy with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to get to the arena. I didn’t care how early I was. That was an exciting day,” she says.
And she wasn’t alone. By the time the Wild took the ice for pregame warmups, the entire arena was full and ready to give a standing ovation. Again, this was a preseason game.
And 399 regular games later, neither fan has looked back, racking up an unprecedented streak of games. Still, one would think that life commitments—births, deaths, weddings, business— at some point would get in the way of going to hockey games. Well, Letourneau says, that’s true. But it all takes a back seat to her team.
“You just schedule around it,” she says. But there was one time when her streak was threatened by those pesky obligations that come with a social life.
“There was a very small wedding, with limited capacity,” she recalls. “And I said, ‘No, you go (to another guest).’ So I went to the game and it worked out for everybody.”
McClellan also had a brush with her personal streak ending—when she was in the hospital with a life-threatening health issue. It was during the 2006-07 playoffs, when the Wild was playing the Ducks in Anaheim. If the Wild won the game on the night McClellan was hospitalized the series would return to Minnesota. McClellan, bed-ridden with an intravenous needle hanging out of her arm, told her doctors, “I will drag this IV down the street if I have to.”
“They looked at me like I was out of my mind. But I would have done it.”
Unfortunately for the rest of the Wild’s fans, but mercifully for McClellan and her family, the Ducks won.
After spending nine seasons with this team—a tenure with the team matched only by assistant coach Mike Ramsey (but even he missed some games with a health issue)—these two fans say the team and its season ticket-holders are something of a family now. They’re at ease fitting the Wild into their lives, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Some people stop off at the bar after work, I stop off at Xcel Energy Center,” Letourneau says.