Minnesota Wild players Thomas Vanek, Ryan Carter and Nate Prosser are always VIP’s when they head into the Xcel Energy Center, but as VIP attendees at the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s 15th Annual “So the World May Hear” gala, next door at Saint Paul RiverCentre, they walked the red carpet instead of lacing up their skates.
The Wild teammates joined a star-studded cast of celebrities including the likes of pop star Katy Perry, Kiss’ Gene Simmons, Evander Holyfield, Lou Ferrigno and “Orange Is the New Black” star Dacha Polanco. The guest list included current and former athletes, musicians, actors and dignitaries who made the trip to Saint Paul for an evening that showcased the tremendous impact of reflecting, caring and sharing to the lives of others.
They also took part in celebrating the philanthropic efforts of attendee George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, who was among those recognized as an event Honoree.
Perry headlined the multiple musical performances of the evening and the Foundation continued its approach of using hearing as a vehicle to change lives around the world.
Learn more about the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
While vendors showcased their new products for NHL teams on the floor of Xcel Energy Center, 10-year old Jalen got a sweet surprise from the league, Minnesota Wild and Cheerful Givers.
Cheerful Givers provide toy-filled birthday gift bags to children in poverty throughout the State Of Hockey. As part of the NHL Legacy event, the NHL and Wild provided gifts to Jalen, who turned 10 in July.
After the event, Wild.com caught up with Executive Director of the Minnesota Wild Foundation, Rachel Schuldt for more about today and a look ahead to the 2015-16 season.
The Minnesota Wild took steps towards a greener State Of Hockey on Tuesday morning.
More than 40 staff members from various departments met in Lilydale Regional Park along a half-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in Saint Paul to help keep Minnesota beautiful.
“We’ve got to take care of our beautiful lakes and rivers,” said Kate Setley, Director of Event Management and Marketing at Saint Paul RiverCentre, Xcel Energy Center. “Water is such a part of Minnesota. We love the community that supports the Minnesota Wild and all of our venues, so today we are picking up trash, making things cleaner and taking care of our environment.”
Three Wild prospects, defenseman Louie Belpedio and forwards Alex Tuch and Jordan Greenway, were recently named to the roster for USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp, taking place in Lake Placid, N.Y. from Aug. 1-8.
On the heels of completing Wild Development Camp at Xcel Energy Center last week, this opportunity allows the Wild prospects an immediate chance to display what they learned during their week together in the State of Hockey.
Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director of Player Development, knows a critical trait he expects to see in these players – no matter where they are training or playing – is a dedicated, professional work ethic.
“[There is a level] of honesty in the work that has to be done to give yourself an opportunity to play at the next level,” said Bombardir. “There’s a whole other level of work ethic that has to be done if you want to play in the National Hockey League and we tried to instill that in them.”
Over the course of Development Camp attention was focused on different areas that require extra effort to make the jump, including proper nutrition, enhanced power skating, and a diversified approach to strength training that must incorporate on-ice body movements and burst.
Kirk Olson, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Wild, spent Development Camp leading the young men through specific off-ice warm-ups and exercises. Olson’s philosophy stresses explosiveness and quickness in training the body to be more efficient and more athletic, while only adding muscle and weight that makes sense to a player’s overall game.
“I’m never going to add size to a player with the result being them slowing down because hockey is a sport based on two-second bursts, followed by stops, starts and turns,” said Olson. “The ‘big’ that they can carry successfully while maintaining their speed, maintaining their quickness, maintaining their explosiveness – that’s of utmost importance to me.”
Olson recognizes most players at Development Camp have already learned to lift weights and do appropriate conditioning as part of their offseason regimen. Yet in addition to that work, he believes the players who put in extra time and effort with high-intensity interval training like jump training and ground-based plyometrics (both of which were incorporated into Development Camp workouts), are the ones who will stand out on the ice.
“That’s what we focus on and that’s what I hope they leave here with: The value and the importance of making sure you pay the price off the ice.”
The American trio of Belpedio, Greenway and Tuch will likely be joined by Wild prospects from Finland and Sweden. Both countries will announce rosters in the upcoming weeks.
For these young hockey players, a chance to shine on the international stage is right around the corner.
Training camp for the 2015-16 season may be more than a month and a half away but the Minnesota Wild is still staying active in St. Paul this summer.
On Saturday, July 25 you can knock out some offseason gear needs at the State of Hockey Mobile store, while exploring the wide variety of lunch, dinner and dessert options at the St. Paul Food Truck Fair. The feast setup will be located at Kellogg and 7th Street, across from Xcel Energy Center, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Also at the Food Truck Festival, fans can join the 2015-2016 season ticket waiting list to guarantee the opportunity to purchase tickets to the outdoor game in February.
Entrance to the event is $2 per person, with a portion of each fee being donated to a local charity. Once inside, each truck charges their own prices based on their specific menu and offerings.
Calgary native Reid Duke led Team White's stampede against Team Green by scoring twice in the 12 to 4 victory during Tuesday's Development Camp scrimmage.
Duke, who spent last season playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, scored 20 goals and 51 points in 52 games in the Western Hockey League.
But, it's the other areas of Duke's game that the Wild asked him to focus on during the past week.
“He’s a highly skilled kid, and he always has been,” said Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director Of Player Development, who coached Team Green against Duke and Team White. “[Duke] just has to play the game the right way in order to earn some of those opportunities.
He wanted to make a name for himself at his second Development Camp with the Minnesota Wild. Little did Alex Tuch know, his final day of Camp would result in thousands of new fans knowing his name on social media.
The 2014 First-Round selection, currently playing for Boston College, scored a slick shootout goal for Team White after last night’s scrimmage, and decided to go out in style, much to the delight of the crowd at Xcel Energy Center.
The 2015 Wild Development Camp scrimmage ended with a full-team shootout on Tuesday night.
The Baldwinsville, NY native lined up for his turn in the shootout at the far blueline. Entering the zone wide right, Tuch brought the puck through his legs, avoiding the poke-check and held his shot until roofing a goal-line snipe in the top corner.
Then, Tuch decided to have a little fun with the crowd, and his fellow Wild prospects.
For his celebration, Tuch holstered his stick like a pirate's sword, then smoothly "walked" past Team Green's bench to his rejoicing teammates on Team White.
Was it a forward moonwalk? A model's walk down the runway?
“A little bit of a slow walk,” Tuch described postgame, adding the move was inspired by a coach at Boston College.
"Guys weren’t having as much fun as they should have," Tuch said. "So I thought I’d spark it up a little bit, chirping and laughing...I’ve become good friends with a bunch of them over the week and it was a lot of fun."
Not surprising to Wild fans, Tuch's incredible goal and ensuing celebration became instant Internet fodder.
New Puck Daddy: Alex Tuch of Wild scores sick shootout goal; celebration was sicker (Video) http://t.co/JRtld27F4S— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 15, 2015
On Tuesday, Tuch helped Team White defeat Greenway and Team Green 12-4 to close out the Minnesota Wild’s 2015 Development Camp, and Tuch stole the show with a shootout goal and celebration.
With every skater on each team taking a shootout attempt to end the scrimmage, Tuch moved in on goalie Brody Hoffman, stick-handling the puck wide of the crease before shooting it into the goal from a sharp angle.
After scoring, Tuch arched his celebration route in front of the Team Green bench, where he high-stepped his way past Greenway and his opponents.
“The shootout move wasn’t even planned,” Tuch said. “I was planning to do something else but the goalie kind of threw his stick on me so I kind of had to hold onto the puck, hold onto the puck, and hope that he didn’t get to the post. It was kind of lucky.
But the celebration...guys weren’t having as much fun as they should have, so I thought I’d spark it up a little bit, chirping and laughing.”
Tuch and Greenway met playing for the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and have the same family adviser. The two friends were each able to enjoy Tuch’s antics after the scrimmage ended.
“It was a little gutless, you know what I mean?” Greenway said with a laugh. “No, I was happy for him, it was a nice move. I’ll give him a little harassment tonight, but it was good; it was fun.”
Tuch and Greenway will go their separate ways with Development Camp over, but won’t wait too long to see each other again. Both players were invited to the United States National Junior Evaluation Camp in August, held in Lake Placid, NY from August 1-8 to help decide the 2016 United States World Junior Championship roster.
They will also cross paths, playing college hockey this year in Hockey East in one of the country’s biggest rivalries, with Tuch at Boston College, and Greenway at Boston University.
“[Jordan is] a really funny kid, lots of energy, loves a good laugh, and just a really good, all-around kid,” said Tuch, who is entering his sophomore year. “I still have some friends over at BU that I played against, and you stay friends. When it’s on the ice, it’s all business. Off the ice, it’s a lot of fun still.”
Greenway, an incoming freshman, said he is eager to get a taste of what’s known as The Battle of Comm. Ave: the two schools, each located on Commonwealth Avenue, are separated by about three miles.
“Obviously it’s a big rivalry, right?” Greenway said. “But going forward I’m looking forward especially going to BC, with their crowd, and playing against them, and hopefully coming out with a win.”
Greenway, selected in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft, was attending his first Development Camp. Tuch, participating in his second camp after getting drafted in the first round in 2014, made an impression on the Wild coaches.
“I will give [Tuch] a ton of credit for his off-ice work,” said Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director Of Player Development, who coached Team Green. “He’s gone home this summer, and he’s come in great shape, in incredible shape. He’s worked hard off the ice, and he’s done a ton of work, and you can see it.
He’s done the right things that we’ve asked him to do so far, so we’re very happy with him, and very proud of the work he put in this summer.”
In a spirited, yet festive, Minnesota Wild Development Camp 3-on-3 tournament, the gray squad knocked off team black 1-0 on a 2nd half goal by forward Kurtis Gabriel.
“It was just a shot from a high place, and it just squeezed through by the back, passed his glove,” explained Gabriel. “They say good things happen when you go to the net, and that’s what I’m trying to get into my game more, so I was fortunate to get a little bounce there and put it in.”
Goalies were not assigned teams for the tournament, rotating in and out, but Stephen Michalek (Team Gray) and Brody Hoffman (team black) had excellent performances in the final, allowing only the one goal scored between them.
There were five teams of six players and one team of five, with squads wearing color coded jerseys: yellow, green, white, black, red and grey as the likes of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk played over the PA system giving the empty arena some extra energy for the private event.
“During skates, during practices guys are working and obviously you don’t have that background noise so it’s more of that workman-like mentality for the guys,” said Brad Bombardir, director of player development. “So to be able to throw the music on there I think actually helps settle them down a little bit and realize that it’s supposed to be fun.”
Starting in the early afternoon there were 10 rotating games played, two at a time on one half of the ice, with a winners and losers bracket to set up the final. Each game consisted of two 4-minute halves, with a three-minute break between.
After the final game, Gabriel accepted the trophy for team grey prior to a team picture posing together with the trophy, and then explained the best part of the victory:
“It’s pretty fun. We’re a tight group of guys, especially the Iowa guys, and going against them there were a couple heated battles between friends. It’s all part of the game and it’s fun to rub it in the guys faces a little bit because we’re always joking off the ice a lot.”
The rosters for the teams in the championship were as follows:
Rugged defenseman Alex Gudbranson, as confirmed by his name being on the trophy from last year, becomes the first player to win the 3-on-3-tournament trophy twice.
Back At It Tuesday Night
The 2015 Minnesota Wild Player Development Camp comes to a close on the evening of Tuesday, July 14 with another free scrimmage open to the public at Xcel Energy Center. Gate 1 will open at 6 p.m. for the 6:30 scrimmage.
WildTV caught up with 2015 Draft picks, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Gustav Bouramman, who admitted to sleep walking in front of his roommate, Alex Gudbranson.
Eriksson Ek also signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild after skating on Monday morning.
Day two of Development Camp focused on conditioning, skating and strengthening as part of a traditional approach. But the Minnesota Wild isn’t just working to refine and enhance ice hockey skills of future stars.
The Wild also focuses on the development of these young men off the ice, including classroom sessions with financial literacy professionals, sports psychology experts and a nutritionist to help educate them how to take care of their bodies even better.
Julie Nicoletti, nutritionist from Kinetic fuel, flew in from Boston this morning to take the players through her presentation “Eating to Compete” and a Q&A session to ensure they are adequately prepared for daily life food choices, whether it be on bus rides across the country to games or in their dorm cafeteria.