Minnesota became a teenage Thomas Vanek's adopted home. As a collegiate at the University of Minnesota, he wowed with his offensive talents and helped lead the Golden Gophers to a national championship in 2003.
Vanek ended up meeting Ashley, his future wife, and a Stillwater native. The fifth pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2003 NHL Draft, Vanek moved to New York, but made his summer home in the State of Hockey, and it's where his three boys were born and raised.
When Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2014, Stillwater became, as he put it, his full-time home.
As the Minnesota Wild looks to ensure more games in its near future by being mindful of its present, the future of the NHL has been knocking on the Wild's doorstep the past week.
On Thursday, it comes in the form of Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, and the rest of a young Edmonton lineup. McDavid, the number one pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is third in the NHL in scoring with 22 points in 19 games since returning from a broken collarbone on Feb. 2.
This season, only forward Patrick Kane has more points per 60 minutes than McDavid.
Michalek has been back and forth between Iowa of the American Hockey League, and Quad City of the East Coast Hockey League in his first year pro.
In the AHL, Michalek is 6-2-0 with a .931 save percentage. In the ECHL, he's 12-8-4 with a .924 save percentage.
The organization's slogan is simple: "If you can play, you can play."
Now, it's being embraced by more and more of the hockey and sports world.
On Thursday, the Minnesota Wild and the You Can Play Organization, a partner of the Wild's, will host a You Can Play awareness night when the Wild plays the Edmonton Oilers.
Though it was two days ago the Minnesota Wild last found itself on the ice, playing on Sunday against the St. Louis Blues, Mikko Koivu said, "It feels like a week."
The Wild returned to the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday for practice, having taken Monday and Tuesday off. That came on the heels of having played a back-to-back, three games in four nights, and eight in the past 13.
"It was awesome, and every guy in the room would probably tell you the same," Jason Zucker said. "It was really nice to have two days. It felt really weird. Yesterday, it felt like I was supposed to be doing something, and I just forgot."
As Matt Dumba said after the Minnesota Wild played the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, finishing up one of Minnesota's busiest stretches on the schedule, "The last couple of weeks we've been all over the map."
The path traveled for the Wild went on a temporary hiatus after its loss against the Blues, with three days separating it from its next game, a Thursday matchup against the Edmonton Oilers in Saint Paul.
The Wild's game against St. Louis was the second half of a back-to-back, Minnesota's third game in four days, its eighth in 13, and 15th in the past 29 days.
As Minnesota Wild interim Head Coach John Torchetti stood behind the bench on Saturday for three-on-three overtime, it was far from his first rodeo.
Six-skater extra sessions are new in the NHL, but were experimented on in the American Hockey League last season before being adopted by big brother.
But what was new, or at least newer, was the Wild getting past regulation and winning. When Minnesota defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a shootout at First Niagara Center, it was the second time in 12 games the Wild has played past 60 minutes, and earned two points.
BUFFALO -- Forward Jason Zucker practiced with the Minnesota Wild on Friday at First Niagara Center, and will play on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Zucker, who was activated from Injured Reserve earlier in the day, has missed the past six games with a concussion he sustained during the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks Feb. 21.
In the second period of that game, Zucker was checked in the open ice by Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival, who was subsequently assessed a five-minute major interference penalty, and a game misconduct.
Brodin has missed the past 13 games after he sustained a broken foot on Feb. 4, but after practicing with the Wild on Wednesday, and taking two morning skates, declared himself good to go.
"I did a lot of rehab, and workouts, and I've been on the ice a couple of times here, so I feel I'm in good shape, and I'm ready to get back," Brodin said.
Charlie Coyle, who turned 24 on Wednesday, got an early birthday gift Tuesday night when he broke a 3-3 tie early in the third period against Colorado, for what amounted to the game-winning-goal.
Coyle added an empty-net goal later, and has three empty-netters in the past eight games, a different kind of gift.
"It's weird. I couldn't remember the last time I scored an empty-net goal before, what was it, Edmonton?" Coyle said. "Or the game before that? Sometimes they go in for you, and you get lucky bounces, and you're at the end of it."