The Wild went through a quick but brisk 40 minute practice today at the Ice Haus, the awesome practice facility connected to Nationwide Arena. After arriving at the hotel in Columbus at 3:15 a.m., Mike Yeo pushed practice back to 2 p.m. to give the players an extra hour of rest. Every Wild player participated in practice.
To an athlete, waking up groggy to a missed call can be unnerving. It could be any number of possibilities, so Tyler Graovac wasn’t quite sure yesterday waking up to a voicemail from Wild Director of Minor League Operations Jim Mill that said: “Grao, call me ASAP.”
It was great news for Graovac actually, who learned he was being summoned to the Minnesota Wild to make his NHL debut tonight. Graovac and his Iowa Wild teammates had arrived in Grand Rapids, Mich., around 5 a.m. He quickly had to get on a plane to Minnesota, before another plane got him to Winnipeg around midnight last night.
Graovac said he “felt a lot of emotions on the ice” this morning at MTS Centre, where he impressed in a Wild preseason game this year.
In the half decade the Wild has taken it outdoors for practice, there have been a variety of weather scenarios — mostly sunny and cold.
Today, at the Wild’s outdoor practice at The John R. Rose OVAL in Roseville, presented by Audi Minneapolis and Audi St. Paul, it was a picturesque setting. Four days before Christmas, giant snowflakes fell as the Wild skated outside for 30 minutes, after more than 2,000 fans reveled in holiday activities for two hours.
Prior to the Wild taking the ice, fans skated for 90 minutes on the outer portion of The OVAL. Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand, as well as a handful of reindeer, which all made for great photo opps.
“This really brought me back to the first Winter Classic,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after, with a Santa-like twinkle in his eye. “(Outdoor hockey) is hopefully something our fans will get to experience here sometime soon.”
The Wild primarily played shinny. Lots of laughing could be heard, none more than when Jason Zucker went leaping over the “boards” (think border patrol) backwards. The Lighthouse is happy to report that Zucker is fine.
“It wasn’t a structured practice,” said Yeo, noting the players elected to forego a scheduled day off to practice in front of the fans. “It’s great for them to come out and meet these fans and go back to their roots.”
Another funny moment came at “intermission”, when Yeo called for the shovels. The snow buildup had become intimidating, so they had to clear it away. The rookies went first, but even veterans Matt Cooke and Thomas Vanek joined in cleaning the ice.
The team likely spent as much time signing autographs for fans along the boards as they did practicing.
“It was a lot of fun,” said a beaming Wild captain Mikko Koivu, his left glove wrapped in snow. “It’s a fun way of spending a morning, getting relaxed. It brings back a lot of memories from when you’re a kid. It feels amazing to have the fans out here even when the weather wasn’t that great."
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Wild didn’t play a home game on Black Friday. However, your favorite team is back at Xcel Energy Center on a busy Saturday in downtown Saint Paul to host the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m.
We’re encouraging you to come downtown early and enjoy all that Saturday has to offer, including the tree lighting at Rice Park powered by Xcel Energy (4-6 p.m.) and Wells Fargo Winterskate. The event includes fireworks at 5:30 p.m. Open skating is set from 6:30-10 p.m.
The Hmong New Year celebration also continues on Saturday at RiverCentre.
Plan ahead with Parking Panda to avoid parking issues when you arrive to downtown Saint Paul.
Congratulations are in order as the Minnesota Wild won the Tier III division of the USA Hockey Sled Classic last weekend at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.
The Wild defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 in the championship game. The field included 16 teams, each affiliated with an NHL club. Each sled hockey team represented its affiliated NHL club by wearing official NHL licensed jerseys with local club marks and logos.
Aaron Holm led the Wild and ranked second in the Tier III division with 13 points (5-8=13) in four games.
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.