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.
Our home city of Saint Paul was recently crowned the “Most Romantic Getaway” in North America by USA Today 10Best, and the Wild will help the city prove its point in the “Chance for Romance” contest.
Singles from around the country will have the chance to be paired by celebrity matchmaker Kailen Rosenberg. Contestants nationwide will be submitting their 2 minute videos between now and this Friday. Kailen Rosenberg will be doing interviews and pairing 10 couples from 20 states during the month of September. The 10 couples will be announced October . The winning couple will be chosen by popular vote from October 1st through October 15 through USA TODAY 10Best. The couple will fly to Minnesota for their whirlwind romantic first date in St. Paul October 30 - November 2.
One couple from Minnesota, and one from across the U.S., will be selected to have a weekend in Saint Paul, including Wild suite tickets, and a stay at the Saint Paul Hotel.
Single folks can sign up for the contest here.
Greetings from Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif., just across the road from LAX. The Wild skated here today (at the Kings official practice facility) and will head downtown shortly. The Kings skate in El Segundo on gamedays as well, but the Wild will hold its morning skate at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time tomorrow. You’ll want to check out this link as we give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes glance at the Wild on the road. We’ll torture you fans back home with some “how warm is it” shots too.
Greetings from Manhattan, where the Wild went through a 45-minute skate at the iconic Chelsea Piers today.
The Wild held an optional practice today at the Rec Zone in Raleigh, although everyone went to PNC Arena for treatment, meetings, etc. Some Wild players even practiced their jump shots on the basketball court - NC State plays Appalachian State tonight, the reason for the “dress and drive” practice.
Not a lot of news today. Zach Parise and Clayton Stoner are both feeling better. Mike Yeo said he won’t know about the lineup until tomorrow. That goes with the goalie situation too. Josh Harding has the hot hand, but he wants to get Niklas Backstrom in the lineup at some point. The Wild has four days off after Saturday’s game.
Yeo was still pleased with his team’s overall effort last night. “You could argue that was one of our best games,” he told the media this afternoon. Yeo praised his team’s relentless pursuit and forecheck - outshooting a Capitals team who’s great on home ice. “We just need to figure out a way to close it out.”
Regular game day for the Wild tomorrow. Morning skate at 11:30 a.m. local time, with a 6 p.m. central time start on FOX Sports North and KFAN-FM.
Those of us who have been around the Wild for a long (long) time had a flashback this morning, as the team flew into an opposing city and then practiced. In recent years, the Wild has practiced at home and then flown into the other city at 2 p.m.