3:40 a.m. - About six hours after last night’s 3-2 win in Philadelphia wrapped up, the alarm goes off. Three-hours-before-dawn wake-up calls are not normally my thing, but when it’s been below freezing for two weeks and you’re headed to Tampa Bay, you hop right out of bed. Ok, not hop but you don’t groan too bad either.
I’m joining up with the Wild Fan Trip to bring you great photos and insights of these yearly ventures to a couple of road cities. The Wild partners with AAA Minneapolis on these trips - this one has almost 100 fans who’ve fled the Polar Vortex.
5:20 a.m. - 16 minutes from parking to gate (thanks MSP Terminal 2), andI decide to check out the brand-new, open-for-a-week Wild Restaurant inside the security checkpoint at Terminal 2. I suggest you do the same next time you’re there.
The Wild was back on the ice today after a day off, skating at Xcel Energy Center before flying to Philadelphia to start a three-game road trip. The start time is officially 6 p.m. central Thursday, but puck drop will be just after 6:50 due to some pre-game festivities. FSN pre-game starts at 6, KFAN pre-game is on at 6:30.
The big news at practice was actually “leaked’ by Head Coach Mike Yeo to Paul Allen on KFAN this morning. Charlie
"Looking back at last year we lost Mikko, at a critical point, we got Charlie going in the middle,” Yeo told reporters after practice. “His speed and skill and size was a real factor in keeping our head above water in a tough time."
The Wild activated Josh Harding from Injured Reserve and placed him on waivers. If he clears at 11 a.m. tomorrow, he will be assigned to Iowa.
Chuck Fletcher spoke to Wild.com from Toronto, where he will attend tonight’s Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony.
“The reality is Josh hasn’t played a game since Dec. 31 of last season,” Fletcher said. “He missed training camp and the first month and a half of season. The most important thing for our organization, and Josh, is to give him the opportunity to regain the form of last season when he played so well for us.”
Mike Yeo just wrapped up his media availability prior to tonight’s game against the Bruins.
The Wild has recalled Stu Bickel and Justin Falk, the latter of whom is expected to play. Jonas Brodin is “sore in a couple different areas,” Yeo said, likening last night’s hit from Chris Kreider to a car crash. Yeo said it’s a measure of precaution, and added what a tough player Brodin is.
Erik Haula will not play tonight. He has not been diagnosed with a concussion, but it’s the team’s call to hold him out for precautionary measures. Yeo said the team has to “protect the player,” and didn’t want to put him in a position to get hurt again, and miss more time.
The Wild leaves the familiarity of the Western Conference for the first time tonight, beginning a back-to-back in New York against the Rangers.
Minnesota had Sunday off, save for the team flight, so today’s morning skate was focused on execution and staying sharp. With all the talk about the Wild practicing more than playing, the team will wind up going five days (Saturday-Wednesday) with nothing more than a morning skate.
Most NHL teams look at their schedule late in the preseason or early in the regular season and try to plan a “team bonding” trip. It didn’t take more than a cursory glance to see a five-day break between games for the Wild this week as the perfect opportunity.
So the Wild departed for Southern California after practice today for a couple days of team bonding before playing in Anaheim on Friday night.
After enjoying a well-deserved Sunday away from the rink, the Wild went back to work Monday at Xcel Energy Center. With no games until Friday, the coaching staff focused on a lot of individual skill work with the players, leading to an extremely spirited 3-on-3 game on a half sheet of ice.
“There was a lot of hidden work,” Mike Yeo said. “They’re having fun, so they don’t realize how hard they’re working.”
It might seem easy to get distracted without a game until Friday, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
Two games against Colorado — two shutouts of various degrees of difficulties. They combined to give Darcy Kuemper this week’s NHL No. 2 star designation.
Thirty five hundred people came to Saturday’s open practice, while another 1,100 ran their hearts out in an outdoor race for the Minnesota Wild Foundation, and fans bought tickets as fast as the Xcel Energy Center Box Office could print them. All before noon.
So it’s no surprise that ESPN the Magazine confirmed this week what we’ve known all along — the Xcel Energy Center, Home of the Home Ice Advantage, has the No. 1 stadium experience in the entire NHL.
Thank you Wild fans for helping to make this happen. Make sure you get to experience it this season!
The magazine’s yearly rankings are out, and the Wild’s stadium experience trails only the San Francisco Giants, Memphis Grizzlies and Green Pay Packers in all of pro sports in North America.
The Wild ranks 24th overall amongst 122 pro teams, in categories such as “Bang for Your Puck”, Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Coaching, Players and Title Track. The Wild jumped 26 spots, having ranked 50th at this time last season.
Your favorite NHL team also ranks 12th in fan relations, 15th in ownership and 17th in players amongst teams from all sports. The Wild also has the third best ranking in the NHL in the player category, behind only Chicago and Detroit.
The full ESPN the Magazine rankings can be found here.
Wild Media Day always has a similar feel — first day of training camp and first day of kindergarten. You know, lots of photos and introductions.
Wild players spent three hours getting put through the ringer — head shots, a different kind of head shots, photos of their entire body in full gear, interviews with three local TV stations, FOX Sports North, Wild radio, community relations, and of course our favorite, Wild.com. Also, Wild game ops films parts of the “open” — oh, have you heard about our new scoreboard? It’s going to be great! (No, don’t ask us for a photo).
Every Wild player is matched with a “buddy” who walks them around and makes sure they don’t miss a stop. It’s not just the NHL roster either, as all 57 players here at camp need to get head shots taken. While some players took their time getting here today after physicals, Matt Cooke was the first in line and therefore the first done, at 10:17 - just more than an hour after he began. The veteran move, hammering it all out before there’s a line.
We’ve got a full behind the scenes gallery. Our social team launched the Wild Snapchat account today (minnesotawild), so you’ll want to make sure you check out the Mikko Koivu selfie. A good shot of Nino Niederreiter is in there, too.
WildTV was there, following forward Erik Haula. He was mic'd up for a Becoming Wild, presented by Toyota, webisode. Look for that once training camp starts. Today, we posted a BW webby from the team's golf outing on Tuesday. Check that vid out, here.
Wild.com Media Day Awards
Best Hair - Mikael Granlund. The #FinnishFlow is in midseason form
The players had a noon meeting to officially open camp, but several had to finish their last stops immediately following. They hit the ice before most of you are at work tomorrow. It’s been a long summer, but yes, it is almost October.