Straight from the locker room, here's tomorrow's lineup for the Wild's first preseason game of the 2014-15 season against Winnipeg at 7 p.m. central.
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.
On the first day of Wild training camp, presented by Andersen Windows, groups A and B were scrimmaging. With time winding down and his team trailing by a pair of goals, Thomas Vanek, skating for the Group B team, threw the puck on net. It hit traffic in front and bounced into the top corner of the net. While it wasn’t the prettiest goal Vanek has ever scored, it was a good introduction to the team.
The Wild signed Vanek, who has 277 career goals, as a free agent in the summer to add offensive punch to a team that averaged 2.43 goals per game last season. Today, he was skating on a line with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle. Although it will take the trio some time to get to know each other on the ice, the Wild captain was impressed with what he saw in his newest teammate.
The Hockey Lodge Mobile Store will make its debut this Saturday, as thousands of people converge on downtown St. Paul for the Breakaway Run, Ticket On Sale and Open Practice.
The Mobile Store is powered by Reebok. Similar trucks are the Winnipeg and Chicago and markets.
The plan is to use the Hockey Lodge Mobile Store at large outdoor events like county fairs, Grand Ole Days, as well as Opening Night, etc. The Mobile Store will be located outside Gate 2 on Kellogg Blvd. Saturday.
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.
Wild.com is streaming live on Saturday, Sept. 20 from the Wild’s Open Practice at training camp, presented by Andersen Windows.
The live stream will start broadcasting around 9:30 a.m., and run for about an hour. Radio Studio Host Kevin Falness and Television Analyst Mike Greenlay will call the action, and the Lighthouse might chime in for a couple of comments, too.
Today, the team is participating in the annual media day before taking the ice for the start of training camp tomorrow.
Ilya Bryzgalov has been invited to Wild training camp on a pro tryout. He’s expected to be on the ice when camp opens Friday.
This brings the number of players invited to camp to 57.
Today, the Minnesota Wild was on the ice for the final day of informal captains’ practices. While scrimmaging against your teammates is fun, the real good time happened yesterday at the team’s corporate golf outing at Troy Burne Golf Club.
Hockey players are known to be good golfers, and throw in their competitive nature, the scores would be low and close. However, no one could’ve guessed that the round would end in three teams tying with scores of 57 (par is 71).
According to sources, there was some confusion as to what constituted as the tiebreaker. The team that included Matt Cooke and Wild owner Craig Leipold ended up in first place. Not a shocker: the ruling, in favor of the veteran and Wild’s big boss, went undisputed.
“We had a good group of guys,” Jason Pominville said. “The golfing was okay, nothing crazy, but we had a lot of fun.”
When we asked Pominville who the worst golfer on the team was, he responded, “We’re asking those kind of questions?” with a smile before recognizing Mikael Granlund. Even if the Finn isn’t the most adept player on the team with a sand wedge, he dressed the part, decked out in Iron Range Red. The Lighthouse asked Pominville a follow up: if he looked like the Kool Aid Man? This elicited no response.
The day was all in good fun, even for those who are much better with hockey sticks than golf clubs. Admittedly not much of a golfer, Coyle approached the round like he does everything, with a smile on his face.
“It was a fun day, it was perfect out, but our team came in last,” Coyle lamented. He quickly took turned more optimistic, “But we’re working towards next year.”
There were some positives (besides their score) for Coyle. The team was awarded gift certificates for their subpar (or was it over par?) efforts.
“It’s probably for some golf tips or something we need,” Coyle cracked.
WildTV sent a motion picture camera to capture the action and fans can keep an eye out for a Becoming Wild webisode from the event.
This is a good time to remind everyone the groundbreaking series, Becoming Wild, presented by Toyota, returns to FOX Sports North for its fourth season. Episode 1 will follow Jonas Brodin to his native Sweden and air on Friday, Sept. 19 after Twins coverage on FSN.
Jared Spurgeon was partnered up with Brodin during the tourney at Troy Burne.
“We put together a couple of good shots,” Spurgeon said. “It was a nice day to get out there and play an awesome course and it was a lot of fun.”
Unfortunately, the House bricked and failed to ask Spurgeon about Brodin’s skills on the links. Spurgeon will be featured in a Becoming Wild episode on Tuesday, Nov. 4 after Minnesota’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A WildTV video featuring the Coyle, Pominville and Spurgeon interviews can be found here.
Wild Invite 56
The club announced that 56 players have been invited to attend Wild training camp. See the story, here, and see the full roster, here.
Training Camp Media Guide
Our friends in the Wild PR department help keep the flow of information, well, flowing. Today, they posted a PDF of the team’s Training Camp Guide at wild.com/TrainingCampGuide. Check it out. It is filled with all kinds of tidbits about your favorite Wild players. Memorize it and you might just know as much about the Wild as the Lighthouse.
Speaking of training camp, if you’re planning on attending the Wild’s Open Practice on Saturday, Sept. 20, there will be a lot of events happening that day. For tips on parking in Saint Paul that day, go here.
Two Wild players had exciting summers, albeit for very different reasons. Both experienced life-changing events, which also signified where they are in their respective lifetimes.
“It was a fun time for myself and my family and friends,” Koivu said. “There was a lot of planning…the first half of the summer was a little busier.”
Koivu said that there are a few differences in a Finnish wedding, but things are pretty much the same as here: church and reception afterwards. After the wedding bliss, it was back to work.
“After (the wedding) it was the usual,” Koivu said.
The usual consists of the typical hockey player’s offseason regiment of working out, conditioning and on-ice skill work. Of course, Koivu’s home life this offseason was a little different, he and his wife, Helena, had a baby girl last year during season. With his new family in tow, he’s ready to start Wild training camp and the 2014-15 regular season.
“The last week or two, it’s a lot of waiting, and mentally you’d like to get there already,” Koivu said. “We’re excited and can’t wait to get it going.”
For Niederreiter, he exchanged wedding photos for another kind of glamour shot, as the cover boy on the Swiss release of NHL 15.
“It was a great honor,” Niederreiter said. “Mark Streit was on the cover and then Roman Josi and now I’m fortunate enough to be on the cover.
“It’s a cool thing.”
Niederreiter said he’s played the game a few times, but he’s not a video-game fanatic. He prefers to spend his time outdoors, and coming from the Swiss Alps (yes, the Lighthouse has seen The Sound of Music), who can blame him?
Clearly, the video game cover was a thrill for him, but the bigger event came with re-signing with Minnesota. On Sept. 11, the Wild and Niederreiter came to terms on a three-year contract.
“It was a long summer with a lot of thinking and going back and forth, but at the end of the day I’m very happy the deal got done and I’m happy to be here,” Niederreiter said.
After showing significant signs of potential during the regular season and a breakout playoff performance, including the series-clinching goal in Game 7 in the first round against the Colorado Avalanche, Niederreiter wants to build on his first year in the State of Hockey.
“I’m still very young and I still have to learn a lot about League and about the team,” Niederreiter said. “So I’m (going into camp) to make a new impression and play my best hockey.
“I feel like every year, the longer you play in the League, the more you have to improve yourself. This year is very important for me. I feel like I had a good season last year, but this year I want to make it a great season.”
After a couple of weeks skating at Braemar Arena, the Minnesota Wild clicked the heels of its ruby slippers and returned home to Xcel Energy Center today for an informal captains’ practice.
With Wild Training Camp, presented by Andersen Windows, opening on Friday, the club skated in a split session today. After a first half of flow drills and in-zone two-on-two and three-on-three play, the Zamboni cleared the ice for a dominating performance from a familiar line.
Wearing green, the trio of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund looked like it hadn’t taken any time off, scoring several goals on pretty plays during the scrimmage. Sure, there was limited contact and guys are still shaking the summer rust off, but it was a joy to watch the three working together.
The Lighthouse saw four goals from the line (we might’ve been texting and missed one) all coming from transition and rushes.
Pominville was on the receiving end of a Parise entry pass, and redirected the puck on grey goaltender, John Curry. The netminder made the initial save, but Pominville stopped in front of the net, pulled the puck out of Curry’s pads and popped a backhander in.
A few minutes later, Granlund skated the puck deep into grey’s zone and whipped a no-look pass to Pominville in the high slot. The wing coasted between the hash marks and moved the puck to Parise on the backdoor. Money.
Pominville picked up his second of the scrimmage, one-timing home a pass from Parise, who was stationed behind the net.
The line closed out the game, this time Granlund finishing the play. Initially, Granlund set up Parise for an open one-timer, but Curry made a diving glove save sliding right to left. The wing stayed with the action, passing to Pominville who found Granlund open for a chip shot over Curry.
“They couldn’t contain us today out there, I guess,” Parise laughed. “We found ourselves in a couple of mismatches today against Haula’s line.
“It was pretty easy actually.”
Of course, Haula had the misfortune of walking by when the Lighthouse was talking to the Wild assistant captain, so he was the target of the ribbing. Wild fans hope that the ribbing will proceed through Training Camp and into Opening Night against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 9.
View a photo gallery of today's practice, here.