Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Minnesota Wild from A to Z

Puck Daddy
Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Minnesota Wild from A to Z
Puck Daddy's Summer Series: The Minnesota Wild from A to Z

(Ed. Note: August is known to be a very quiet month in the hockey world. As we wait for September to arrive and training camps to begin, let’s learn a little history about all 30 teams. Behold, our summer A-Z series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to drop some knowledge on us! Add your own choices in the comments!)

By: Donna Carpenter, writer for Runnin’ with the Dogs (with help from Emilie Wiener)

A. Aeros

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Before the Wild’s AHL affiliate relocated to Iowa and rebranded as the Iowa Wild, the Houston Aeros were charged with preparing our young stallions and our one-hoof-in-the-glue-factory veterans for the day they may get called up to the big leagues. The Houston Aeros had a robust fan base, as AHL teams go, and there are still die-hards trying to bring hockey back to southern Texas. Iowa may be a more convenient location for the Wild, but we do hope our friends in Houston can get another team.

Maybe the Dallas Stars can relocate?

B. Boogeyman, The

Derek Boogaard spent five seasons as the Wild’s enforcer and Marian Gaborik’s personal bodyguard. The Boogeyman was a fan favorite and a gentle giant. He destroyed Todd Fedoruk’s face during a 2006 fight. Yet, the following season when Fedoruk joined the Wild, the two became friends; that speaks volumes about the kind of person Derek was. Boogaard battled pain from lingering injuries, especially back problems, and developed an addiction to painkillers to try to cope. Boogaard died May 13, 2011, from an overdose of alcohol and said painkillers.

Wild teammates and fans barely had time to grieve before Boogey’s former teammate, Pavol Demitra’s, was killed in the Lokomotiv tragedy.

C. Captain America

Zach Parise, #OneOfUs (see letter O) - though not a Minnesota Golden Gopher (a.k.a Rodent) despite shameless begging from Lou Nanne and Glen Sonmor - signed for many dollars with the Minnesota Wild in the 2012 off-season and was immediately named assistant captain.

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Zach was also captain of the ill-fated U.S. men’s hockey team in the 2014 Olympics; thus, earning him the nickname Captain America. His donning of the 'C' prompted whiners from far and wide to wonder why he was good enough to be captain of Team USA, but not captain of the Wild. The answer to that question, in case you’re one of those whiners, is at the letter K.

D. Darby Hendrickson

Darby, 1991 Mr. Hockey (an award given to the most outstanding senior boys’ high school hockey player in Minnesota), Rodent, and #OneOfUs, scored the first home goal in Wild history, on October 11, 2000; this convergence of Minnesotaness caused sportswriters everywhere to cream their jeans. Darby is now an assistant coach for the Wild. His hair has not improved.

E. Eighteen Thousand

The Wild fans are known as the “Team of 18,000,” referring to the sell-out crowds the Wild played to for their first 409 consecutive home games. (Technically a sell-out was 18,064 during the time period in question, but we only need two significant figures.)

The Wild cannot start a home game without a celebrity or “celebrity” leading the 18K in a rousing chant of “Let’s Play Hockey!” The Team of 18,000 even has a retired jersey. The Wild organization retired the No. 1 for the fans at the first home game. Which is… kind of embarrassing, actually, and could at some point adversely impact the Wild’s ability to secure a free agent goalie. It’s really the ultimate jersey foul.

F. First-Round Bust

The term refers to the questionable draft choices of the Minnesota Wild during the Doug Risebrough era. The first four drafts went well for the Wild with the selections of Marian Gaborik, Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns; however, a myriad poor choices followed - though the Wild never reached the depths of failure their football comrades in purple did in 2003.

In 2005, the Wild picked Benoit Pouliot at No. 4, passing over the likes of TJ Oshie, Anze Kopitar, and Carey Price. In 2009, the Wild drafted (#OneofUs) Nick Leddy, a decent pick, but packaged him up with Kim Johnssen and Fedexed the two to Chicago in exchange for Cam Barker. Instead of AJ Thelen in ‘04, the Wild could have drafted Devan Dubnyk, the necromancer who singlehandedly resurrected the 2014-15. Or, I don’t even know, pick any person from that draft who played even a single game in the NHL or even a dozen games in the AHL and you’ve got an improvement over Thelen!

The Wild finally got back on track in 2010, drafting Mikael Granlund.

To give you an idea of what “back on track” means, the Wild eked 378 NHL games out of their 04-09 draft picks, but have already gotten 424 out of their 10-12 draft picks. (Thank you Nate Wells for your depth of knowledge on the Wild’s draft follies.)

G. Gaborik, Marian

Marian Gaborik, he of the glass groin, was the first player drafted by the Minnesota Wild. The speedy Slovak spent eight seasons with the team, but his holdout to start the '03-'04 season and his seemingly unending injuries wearied fans. In 2007, Gaborik scored 5 goals and an assist for the Wild against his future team, the Rangers.

Though he might not have been the most popular player in Minnesota at times, Gaborik holds most of the Wild’s individual single-season records (most goals, most points, most points as a rookie, and most goals in a game) and all-time records (for example: the Wild franchise has had 18 hat tricks in its history. Gaborik has nine, and nine other guys each have one.)

H. Hockey Day Minnesota Twin Cities

Hockey Day Minnesota is a roving holiday here in the State of Hockey. It's a day set aside for us to meditate on all forms of hockey ... that Fox Sports North deems worthy of broadcasting. (Next year’s Hockey Day is in Duluth, to throw the “outstate” teams and fans a bone.)

Boys’ high school teams play outdoor games at a select location; anywhere from Baudette Bay on the Canadian border to Holman Field, an airport in downtown St. Paul.  A girls’ high school hockey team is occasionally shown on tape delay.

The Gopher men, the only D-1 hockey team in the state of MN, play a team from some other state. (If only there were other in-state programs to showcase…) No women’s college hockey games have ever been shown, despite the 10 national championships between the two University of Minnesota system programs.

Vignettes of hockey stories from around the state are shown on TV throughout the day, and Minnesotans and hockey fans serving in the military are celebrated. In 2015, Minnesota-St. Paul media members Tom Reid, Lou Nanne, Jamie Hersch, and Dan Barreiro travelled to Kuwait to visit the MN National Guard’s 34th Combat Aviation Brigade and 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion.

In 2014, Elk River, MN hosted the outdoor games and Elk River native Nate Prosser, #OneOfUs, scored the overtime game-winning goal against the Dallas Traitors. FSN executives and Minnesota sports media were like:

Let’s see “Hockeytown” try to compete. *crickets*

I. Iron Lung

(Pictured above: Ryan Suter in the Wild locker room between periods.)

Ryan Suter, who also signed for many dollars with the Minnesota Wild in the 2012 off-season and was also immediately named assistant captain, plays a lot of minutes. The past two seasons, he has averaged over 29 minutes of ice time per game. Whether this is to the benefit or detriment of the team and of Suter, we may never know.

J. Justin Fontaine

Justin Fontaine attended the Wild’s 2010 summer camp as an undrafted senior at Minnesota-Duluth. Less than a year later, Justin and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs had won a national championship at the Xcel Energy Center and Justin was a member of the Wild organization - just as I predicted and advised during the 2010 camp.

Fontaine’s arrival with the big club was stalled due to the abbreviated 2012 season, but as a rookie, Fontaine made his presence felt. Justin’s first goal in a Wild uniform set a franchise record for fastest goal to start a game (12 seconds), and he became the first Wild rookie to score a hat trick when he did so against the Phoenix Coyotes.

K. Kaptain Koivu

Mikko Koivu, younger brother of Saku, Finnesotan, is the Wild’s first and only permanent captain (prior to 2009-10, the Wild had a rotating captaincy).

Koivu was the Wild’s first round pick in 2001 and made his debut in 2005. Despite being apparently terrible, Koivu is the Wild’s top overall scorer with 500 points, has rarely been out of the top three scorers on the team, and shuts down his opponents, creating space for his linemates to do work.

But then idiots want to put Erik Haula (#OneOfUs) ahead of Koivu on the depth chart…

I know, Mikko, I know.

L. Lemaire, Jacques

The Wild tapped veteran coach Jacques Lemaire to start off the franchise. Jacques brought along with him to the State of Hockey nephew and goalie, Manny Fernandez (who spent six seasons with the Wild), the bizarre “rotating captain” concept which Todd Richards jettisoned upon arrival, and a penchant for defensive hockey.

Wild fans hoped Jacques could bring the Stanley Cup to Minnesota, considering he’s won it eight times as a player, twice as an executive, and once as a coach, but the best he was able to do was a Northwest Division championship and a 3rd-round exit in the playoffs. Jacques got the Wild off to a better-than-expected start for a start-up team, and perhaps if Gaborik and he could have seen eye-to-eye, the Wild coulda been a contender.

M. Michael Russo

Russo
Russo

Wild fans are lucky enough to be treated to one of the best beat writers in hockey.  We’re talking about a guy who spent the first part of his summer “vacation” camped out at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in order to string together enough pieces of information to confirm that Parise and Suter were indeed signing with Minnesota. Oh, and that Minnesota had been front-runners since free agency started, despite other “media” sources claiming that the pair were absolutely, positively, 100% (not) signing with other teams.

“Don’t believe it until Russo tweets it” is the tried and true motto for Wild fans. And if you don’t RTFB (read the f---ing blog), be prepared for an appearance from Russo’s alter-ego to set you straight. Despite less knowledgeable fans claiming Russo is a homer, he’s actually a Florida Panthers fan and will work the fact that he was a Panthers beat writer into nearly every article and interview (we’re mostly kidding).

If you see a Michael Russo in his natural state (writing/blogging), make sure to not approach him until he is finished and has been properly supplied with coffee.

N. Norm Green Sucks

Hockey fans in Minnesota of a certain age (or below a certain age, but affecting a world-weary, wise-beyond-their-years, kids-[aka-people-two-years-younger-than-me]-these-days attitude) know, in their heart of hearts: NORM GREEN SUCKS.

Norm Green, owner of the Minnesota North Stars, ripped out the hearts of hockey fans across the State of Hockey by moving the team to Dallas, in the State of High School Football, following the 1992-93 season. Norm Green also was ALLEGEDLY a [string of unprintable, libelous words I redacted on my own so that Puck Daddy would not have to] and a harasser of women.

While there are idiots in Minnesota who still misguidedly purchase and wear new North Stars merch, the rest of us are still bitter bears about losing our first team. I cannot even fully rock out to the music of Pantera because I know they are (or were, RIP Dime) Stars fans. There were dark times in Minnesota before the Wild lifted us out of our post-apocalyptic madness, when people did terrible and shocking things like buying Gopher men’s hockey season tickets, using and manufacturing methamphetamines, and *quelle horreur* cheering for the Chicago Blackhawks.

I know!

O. #OneOfUs

State of Hockey residents are a bit insular about hockey, if you haven’t noticed. Almost a bit xenophobic, you might say, while at the same time quick to claim a player as Minnesotan if there’s even a tangential connection to the state. TJ Oshie is #OneOfUs, for example, because he played high school hockey in the REAL Hockeytown USA, Warroad. Erik Haula is #OneOfUs because he played for the Gophers. After the Blackhawks inevitably eliminate the Wild from the playoffs, we must search for a “Minnesota connection” among the remaining teams.

This mentality leads Minnesotans to make some questionable suggestions regarding trades or free agent acquisitions. Like hey, let’s sign Phil Kessel. Hmmm, maybe Paul Martin would like to come back to Minnesota and finish out his career. The Wild should really sign Austrian #OneOfUs Thomas Vanek. Oh, that actually happened. The questionable suggestions have permeated the Wild management (#OnesOfUs or not), leading to questionable decisions such as acquiring Vanek, Ballard, or, in the most saccharine case of tampering of all time, Jordan Leopold.

P. Peter Griffin

Our owner!

Wait, no, that’s not him. Here he is.

Er, no, sorry. It’s hard to tell Leipold and Peter Griffin apart. I think I’ve got it…

Ok ok ok. Here he is for real.

Truly, Minnesota Wild fans appreciate Craig Leipold for not being a miser like the Twins’ ownership when it comes to everyone not named Joe Mauer (#OneOfUs) or Ricky Nolasco.

Q. Quad City Mallards

The Quad City Mallards are the Wild’s ECHL affiliate. They have a cool logo and… and… look, I’m sure they are a lovely franchise with a delightful roster of rosy-cheeked young men destined for a sales job at the car dealership of their choice back in Balls Falls, ON or wherever, but I was really just checking “Q” off my list. Is there a team with easier “Q” and “X” entries? I doubt it.

R. Roy, Patrick

Oh, Patrick Roy. You must have nightmares about the Minnesota Wild. To have them on the ropes, down 3 games to 1 and then to see this happen?

It must have been disheartening.

And then, the next game, back at home in the Lesser Cola Center, in a Game 7, as the division champions, this happens?

And it’s the end of your playing career? Must have been devastating. (The Wild went on to overcome another 3-1 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks, before succumbing not with a bang, but a whimper to the Mighty Ducks in 4 games.)

But you moved on, you got over it, after extreme therapy and possibly a lobotomy. Until…

(Oh hey, look, a goalie that’s more of a scumbag than you!)

I almost feel bad for you, Patrick. Life has been hard, and you’ve soldiered on with dignity and grace in the face of enormous adversity.

Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy

Nah.

S. Shoot-Outs

The Wild have had their ups and downs with the skills competition since its inception. They’ve had some notable performances through the years.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Wild first round non-bust, Shanaban scapegoatCharlie Brown doppelganger, busted out this move in a shootout. While he didn’t invent it, Wild fans like to think he is responsible for its popularity in the NEW! Now Without Ties! NHL.

Brian Rolston startled everyone when, during a penalty shot opportunity against Roberto Luongo, he unleashed a slap shot and scored. Rolston started taking this unorthodox approach into his shootout attempts, with reasonable success.

And then there’s Devin Setoguchi, losing the game for the Wild against the Habs by first losing the puck, then falling over.

If ever there was a time for a sad trombone sound effect, it would be then. Or perhaps just now, when I looked at how statistically terrible Niklas Backstrom is in goal during shootouts.

T. Tom Reid or Tom Reid's

Former North Star Tom Reid (pictured here with the late JP Parise) is the color man for the Wild’s radio broadcast, alongside play-by-play man Bob Kurtz.

Tom is also the owner of Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub, known as “Tom Reid’s” by anyone looking to drink or gorge themselves on poutine before, during, or after Wild games, “The Tourney,” or the Big 10 Conference Tournament. Just kidding on that last one, no one goes to that.

U. Ugly Sweaters

No, this doesn’t refer to the Wild’s current green jersey.

During the 12 Days of Zoyle (a term coined by Wild fans meshing young forwards Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle), Wild fans were treated to 12 pictures of Zucker and Coyle in matching ugly Christmas sweaters. Zucker and Coyle are part of a group of young players who Wild fans got to “know” through prospect camps and the documentary series “Becoming Wild” before they even reached The Show.

V. Veilleux, Stephane

Stephane Veilleux, balding ginger, is a journeyman forward who has had two separate stints with the Wild organization. Wild fans were especially happy to see Veilleux return in 2012, because it meant the end of the Marek Zidlicky-era in Minnesota.

Veilleux is not a true enforcer but gets scrappy when he needs to, and he also perfectly summed up how everyone, everywhere feels about Cody MacLeod.

W. Wes Walz (or Walz, Wes)

An original member of the Wild, Wes Walz spent six full seasons with the Wild before announcing his retirement during his seventh-season with the team.

The defensive-minded, driven Walz left behind an unstable NHL career to play in Switzerland, where he was rediscovered by then-GM Doug Risebrough, in a blind squirrel-nut situation. Once with the Wild, Walz became one of the league’s best defensive forwards (working with Lemaire will do that), and he was a Selke nominee in 2003. He’s the Wild’s career leader in SHG with 14, scoring half of those in the Wild’s inaugural season.

Walz
Walz

He also achieved the remarkable feat of scoring with his pants, when he was checked into the net by Columbus’s Jason Chimera with the puck trapped in his breezers.

Walz is now an analyst for FSN, delivering somber sermons on the Wild’s wins and losses. He runs a youth hockey school and coaches high school hockey.

X. Xcel Energy Center

The Wild play their home games at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. “The X” was built on the site of the Civic Center, near the banks of the Mississippi River.

The X features a lighthouse, a Zamborgan, and a very fancy center-hung video display.

Y. Yeo, Church of

The first season of Becoming Wild was by far the best season. It showed an in-depth look at the Houston Aeros’ run at the Calder Cup, with then-head coach Mike Yeo leading the way. (Now Becoming Wild just shows players’ basic McMansions and their WAGs and families awkwardly interacting.) Wild fans got a good look at what their new head coach would bring to the table, and one episode even staged Chuck Fletcher’s call to Mike Yeo to offer him the head coaching position. Wild fans were galvanized by the hire, and the Church of Yeo was founded.

The true believers have been tested over the past few years. Some have seen their faith waver, but because we are Minnesota fans, who are sucked in year after year to our various sports teams only to see them flounder and fail in spectacular and ordinary ways, many still believe the Church of Yeo and Our Lord Parise can bring us a Stanley Cup.

Z. Zholtok, Sergei (or Zoltoks, Sergejs)

Zholtok
Zholtok

It’s cruel that an NHL franchise barely out of puberty would even have a single departed alumnus, yet here I am writing about a third.

Zholtok spent almost three seasons with the Wild, assisting on Brunette’s famous Roy-destroying goal. During the 2004-05 lockout, Zholtok and former Wild teammate Darby Hendrickson joined HK Riga 2000 in Latvia. In his sixth game with the team, Zholtok left the ice near the end of the game, collapsed, and died from heart failure in Hendrickson’s arms. 

Meet the author: Donna Carpenter (no relation to Alex) lives in Duluth, MN and blogs about college hockey at Runnin’ with the Dogs. You’re welcome to follow both Donna (@runwiththedogs) and Emilie (@eminemilie) on Twitter. 

Previous A to Z Guides: Anaheim | Arizona | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles

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