ST. PAUL, Minn. -- All the Minnesota Wild Executives had to do was drop a puck and they could fill the Xcel Energy Center. Well, they whipped the crowd into a frenzy with free hockey following a long lock-out. A Wednesday night inter-squad scrimmage was a pretty popular welcome back gift for fans in the state of hockey.

"Mid-December was brutal," Wild Fan Kelly Raeth of Rosemount said, as he waited with 3 other buddies to get into the arena. "If you're a true hockey fan, you don't give up on it," Raeth's buddy Chris Dornquast explained.

Perhaps no one was as excited as Zach Swenson, a college student home on break. He got to the "X"at 8:30 a.m., for a 7 p.m. scrimmage. "Just been sitting here. Butt's a little sore," he told KARE 11.

Swenson, Raeth, and Dornquast sprinted through the gates to grab the seats closest to the glass, which meant they were closer to the players they longed to see. Tickets were general admission and the early birds had the best looks at the ice.

Season ticket holder Burt Carter of St. Paul was just happy to be back home. "I got chills when I walked in here and saw all the people. I'm just thrilled to death," Carter said.

He was ready for what promises to be a wild 3-and-a half-months. The team will squeeze in 24 home games before hopefully heading to the playoffs. "I expect to be sitting in this arena in May and June of this year for the Stanley Cup playoffs," Carter exclaimed.