Veterans like to take their time. They are usually the last ones out of the locker room and the last ones on the bus.
But Monday was different for Dave Steckel. The veteran forward, in camp with the Wild on a tryout, nearly sprinted out of the locker room at Nationwide Arena in Columbus to spend just a few precious minutes with his wife, Diondra, and two-year-old daughter, Harper - conceived with the help of In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF.
Steckel, a Milwaukee native, has been living in a hotel room in Saint Paul for the better part of a month, meaning this time was extra sweet. The Steckel’s spend their offseason in Columbus. Dave was a hockey star at Ohio State - Diondra a basketball player.
While more than 20 players were reassigned today, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Steckel remains on the roster. He is one of 28 (including three injured players) on a roster that needs to get down to 23 by Opening Night on Oct. 3 when the Wild faces the Los Angels Kings at Xcel Energy Center.
"I'm lucky I have an understanding wife," Steckel told Wild.com Tuesday after practice. "It was great to see them but at the same time, my job is to go out and try to make this team."
Steckel may have understated it a bit - he surely looked like a player ignited by his family's presence. He was all over the ice in the Wild's 2-1 shootout win, a veteran amidst a roster full of hopefuls - like himself. Steckel created a couple of shorthanded breakaways by doing what he does best - moving his feet.
"I thought he had a good first game, but he had a really strong second game (Monday)," said Wild head coach Mike Yeo. "He did what we expect of him, which is to be a strong two-way player, penalty kill, and bring a big-body presence."
Steckel earned a reputation as one of the league's best penalty killers with Washington from 2007-11. Yeo, who handled the power play for the Penguins, has seen first-hand Steckel's defensive prowess.
"The opportunity is what I make of it," Steckel said before heading to Columbus. "I'm thankful Minnesota gave me this opportunity in the first place. You take each day as a blessing. Obviously, I'm trying to stay in the league and stick with this club."
If he doesn't make the Wild's opening night roster, Steckel would likely sign an AHL contract with the Iowa Wild, awaiting his next chance with the Wild, or another NHL team. He's one of dozens of NHL veterans playing the waiting game and searching for a permanent home late in September.
"It was hard at first," Steckel said. "But I've learned you can really only control what you do. That's been my approach. I want to come here with a great attitude every day."
Steckel is also a faceoff specialist as he has been ranked in the top seven in the NHL in faceoffs each season since 2007-08.
"I like to pride myself in winning faceoffs," Steckel said. "I'm good on the penalty kill. I create energy on the forecheck and create the odd man rush, but I am responsible defensively."
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