Category Archives: State of Hockey

News from around the State of Hockey or about players from the State of Hockey.

NHL Players To Host Charity Game In Cottage Grove

Not only did Xcel Energy Center provide a place to see some of the Wild’s future stars in person, it also proved to be the perfect remedy to scorching hot temperatures outdoors.

If you’re looking for another arena to seek shelter from the heat, you should hit up Cottage Grove Ice Arena on Wednesday night, July 20 for a charity hockey game to benefit the Cottage Grove Hockey Association, the Hastings Hockey Association and Defending The Blue Line.

The event was organized by three local NHLers, including Hastings native Jeff Taffe, who recently signed with the Wild. Derek Stepan and Taylor Chorney, who are also from Hastings, are the other organizers.

NHL stars scheduled to take part include David Backes, Brent Burns, Alex Goligoski, Matt Hendricks, Phil Housley, Erik Johnson, Jamie McBain, Ryan McDonagh, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Dan Sexton, Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler.

The players will be available for an autograph session before the game from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Autographed jerseys will also be auctioned off after the game.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the Hastings Ice Arena and the Cottage Grove Ice Arena.

Wild Can Play Spoilers; UMD Afterglow

Good afternoon State of Hockey Legion,

Just a quick post from the Xcel Energy Center press box before fans start filing into the arena for tonight’s game against the hated Dallas Stars.

Well, we got what we were hoping for: The Blackhawks did in fact lose in regulation to Detroit in Chicago this afternoon, so tonight’s Wild game will have plenty of meaning behind it. Both teams in St. Paul will be skating with some extra jump in their stride tonight because the outcome will decide the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference. Blackhawks Nation will be rooting for your Minnesota Wild because if Dallas earns two points, it will overtake Chicago for the final playoff spot. It will be the same Wild lineup tonight as it was for Friday’s game in Edmonton with Jose Theodore getting the start in net.

An interesting side note that was just pointed out to me by Mike Russo of the Star Tribune: Since Dallas needs to get two points tonight, and not just one, imagine if the game went to OT. We might very well see a goalie getting pulled in OT. And, because of a weird NHL rule, if the Wild won, Dallas would come away with zero points in the game. If you pull your goalie in OT and end up losing, you don’t get the one consolation point. Obviously, Dallas doesn’t care about one – two is the only number on their mind tonight. Still, it will be something interesting to watch for if this contest in fact goes past regulation.

As I wrote in today’s wild.com game preview, this game means plenty to the Wild. Yes, they want to make the home crowd happy. Yes, they want to close a disappointing end to the season with back-to-back wins. But perhaps most importantly, they want to play spoilers. Some Minnesota fans might still dislike the Stars after they moved to Dallas, but the Wild dislikes its six-game winless streak against the Stars and how chippy many of the recent contests between the two teams have been.

Fans should be clamoring to come down to St. Paul not only to root on the Wild’s attempt to play spoilers, but for the awesome posters that will be the free giveaway at tonight’s game. They look pretty slick and should quickly become the favorite wall decoration of all Wild fans.

Of course, no Lighthouse would be complete without a UMD mention (that’s a rule if you work for Glen, didn’t you know?) Obviously, the Dogs are the talk of college hockey after topping the University of Michigan last night here in this very building. It was a pretty cool scene to see the crowd and Bulldogs go crazy when the deciding goal was scored in OT. I haven’t seen Glen yet today, but I have to imagine he is still rocking a massive smile. No word on if he kept his promise of jumping in the Holiday Inn pool fully clothed after the Dogs first National Championship, but if he hasn’t, we might have to have some Wild TV fun tomorrow.

Go Wild!

Frozen Four Fever; Injury Updates

The Minnesota Wild held their Tuesday morning practice at Xcel Energy Center today, but it didn’t exactly feel like home in there. To get ready for the Frozen Four, every advertisement has been removed from the boards. There’s not a Wild logo to be found in the entire arena bowl.

The college kids are coming in starting today, and following tomorrow morning’s practice, the Wild will hand over the keys to the NCAA. I heard a rumor that the UMD Bulldogs are one of the teams that will be at the tournament this weekend. Isn’t that nice?

What will be most interesting will be to see if any of the four participating teams have a higher shooting percentage than those basketball teams that played last night in Houston.

Several of the Wild coaches have a rooting interest in this weekend’s activities. Goaltending coach Bob Mason is a former Bulldog, while Assistant Coach Rick Wilson is a former North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Head Coach Todd Richards is a former Gopher, but he made it clear he will not be pulling for UND this weekend.

Eric Nystrom will be pulling for his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Nystrom played in two Frozen Fours, including his freshman season in 2002 when the Wolverines fell to the Gophers in the semifinals.

The one and only Kevin Falness, who will be filling in for Bob Kurtz on the play-by-play duties for the next two Wild games, spoke to several of the key players for this weekend’s games. The Connolly brothers from different mothers of UMD can be heard here. Wild prospect Sean Lorenz, who will face UMD as a member of Notre Dame, can be heard here. Legendary Michigan head coach Red Berenson can be heard here. And while I’m pretty sure there aren’t any UND fans out there, just for kicks, I’ll put Kevin’s interview with Chay Genoway on here.

As for the Wild, there were a lot of bodies missing today due to injuries. Martin Havlat (upper body), Cal Clutterbuck (upper body), Jose Theodore (lower body), Cam Barker (upper body), Guillaume Latendresse (abdominal), Marek Zidlicky (lower body), Nick Schultz (concussion) and John Madden (lower body) were all sitting out.

Josh Harding was the other goalie on the ice, but Richards said not to expect him to play this season. Hear what the Head Coach told the media after today’s practice here.

That’s about it for the on-ice news. There is expected to be some off-ice news later this afternoon regarding a Wild business-related announcement. Stay tuned to Wild.com for those details.

Wild Preps For St. Louis; Viewing Party Tuesday

Good afternoon, State of Hockey Legion! Hope your work weeks are off to a great start. Mine is a little busier than normal since Glen is spending the week with his family in sunny Florida, but no worries wild.com superfans (and I know there a million of you), I’ve got his back.

The Wild had an upbeat practice that lasted about 45 minutes at Xcel Energy Center this morning before departing for St. Louis. Both Mikko Koivu and Chuck Kobasew missed practice, but Head Coach Todd Richards said it was just a maintenance day for each of them and both should be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Blues. Cam Barker and James Sheppard also took part in practice, but neither will travel to tomorrow’s game, nor will any of the other injured players.

An interesting side note from today’s skate was that much of the team was sporting the clean shaven look. I wasn’t at yesterday’s Wild practice, so I don’t know when exactly the razors came out, but I definitely noticed the lack of facial hair around the locker room today. I counted at least five guys that had trimmed nearly everything off, and I’m sad to say that includes Kyle Brodziak, who had been rocking his Movember stache for the last four months. Brodziak said he just decided to change it up but that it will probably reappear at some point. Farewell, Brodzstache. You made all of your fellow Movember dusters proud.

Onto the business on the ice, it was a fairly typical practice for the Wild, minus some line shuffling to adjust for the absence of Koivu and Kobasew. Richards did say after practice that he will start tomorrow’s game with different lines in hopes to get some productivity and chances in the offensive zone. That means the second and third lines should be shifted around, with Havlat possibly lining up with Cullen and Kobasew like yesterday’s practice. Jose Theodore will start in net tomorrow against the Blues.

In case you missed it, radio play-by-play man Bob Kurtz missed his first Wild game – ever – Saturday night because he was sidelined with a bad sinus infection. Kurtz had previously called all 912 Wild games – including preseason and playoff games – which in itself is an amazing stat. Kurtz is still under the weather so Kevin Falness will once again fill in for him. Feel better, Bob! Listen to Falness’ practice update in today’s PONDcast.

Finally, don’t forget to come join me, other Wild staff members and fans at the Wild Interactive Viewing Party tomorrow night at the Mall of America. Former Wild great Wes Walz will be on hand to sign autographs and there will be a ton of great giveaways including a game-worn Bouchard jersey, video game systems, Wild tickets and much more. Of course, we’ll have the Wild-Blues game on the big screen but the party starts at 6 p.m. so stop by. Get all the details here.

Dean Blais Will Coach U.S. At World Juniors

One last look back at St. Patrick’s Day, and then we move forward. When I try to think of word for St. Patty’s Day 2011, “sucks” comes to mind quite frequently. The Wild lost, every other Western Conference team won and the UMD Bulldogs lost to Bemidji State in the WCHA Final Five. Plus, my Final Five brackets is completely blown to rubble.

Thankfully, it’s over, and today is shaping up to be a much better day. It starts with University of Nebraska Omaha head coach Dean Blais being named as the head coach of the U.S. National Junior team, which will take part in the World Junior Championships starting in December in Calgary and Edmonton. Of course Blais led the United States to a gold medal in the 2010 World Junior Championships, and the guy pretty much knows how to win.

While we’re on the subject of amateur hockey players and Minnesota natives (Blais is a native of International Falls), there are two Minnesotans that were named as finalists for the 2011 Hobey Baker Award. Duluth’s Jack Connolly (UMD) of Minnesota-Duluth and Edina’s Chase Polacek (RPI) are among the final 10. The other finalists are Cam Atkinson (Boston College), Carter Camper (Miami-Ohio), Matt Frattin (UND), Andy Miele (Miami-Ohio), Gustav Nyquist (Maine), Justin Schultz (Wisconsin), Paul Thompson (New Hampshire) and Paul Zanette (Niagara).

Also, the Wild is one of four teams (Chicago, Columbus and Detroit are the others) that will be honored by the U.S. EPA for redistributing unsold arena food to those in need.

In cooperation with food provider Levy, the Wild have rerouted 6,220 pounds of food. Levy and Joseph’s Store House coordinate the pick-up and distribution from Xcel Energy Center after Wild home games. On March 26, the EPA will celebrate the Wild’s environmental achievements, presenting the Club withe a plaque on the “Let’s Play Hockey” FSN stage during intermission.

Rau Named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey; Lyon Takes Brimsek

The day after poking in a loose puck in triple overtime to defeat Duluth East and give Eden Prairie its second state championship in three years, Kyle Rau received one more honor. Rau was named the recipient of the 27th annual Mr. Hockey Award given by the Minnesota Minutemen to the top senior hockey player in the state.

Rau is a Minnesota Gopher recruit, and the younger brother of Wild prospect Chad Rau, currently playing for the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.

He beat out nine other finalists including: Josh Archibald (Brainerd High School), Ben Bahe (Hill-Murray), Jon Brodzinski (Blaine High School), Tony Cameranesi (Wayzata High School), Patrick Daly (Benilde-St. Margaret’s), Max Everson (Edina High School), Steven Fogarty (Edina High School), Garrett Hendrickson (Virginia High School) and Joe LaBate (Academy of Holy Angels).

Alex Lyon from Lake of the Woods High School received The Frank Brimsek Award, in recognition of Minnesota’s top senior goaltender. Andrew Ford of Eden Prairie was the other finalist for the award.

Rau joins a distinguished list of past Mr. Hockey winners: Nick Bjugstad (2010), Nick Leddy (2009), Aaron Ness (2008), Ryan McDonagh (2007), David Fischer (2006), Brian Lee (2005), Tom Gorowsky (2004) Nate Dey (2003), Gino Guyer (2002), Marty Sertich (2001), Paul Martin (2000), Jeff Taffe (1999), John Pohl (1998), Aaron Miskovich (1997), Dave Spehar (1996), Erik Rasmussen (1995), Mike Crowley (1994), Nick Checco (1993), Brian Bonin (1992), Darby Hendrickson (1991), Joe Dziedzic (1990), Trent Klatt (1989), Larry Olimb (1988), Kris Miller (1987), George Pelawa (1986) and Tom Chorske (1985).

Happy Hockey Day, Minnesota

6:24 p.m. – Wild COO Matt Majka checks in from Moorhead

Happy Hockey Day from bright and shiny Moorhead, Minnnesota…Almost too shiny, in fact. The sun may wreak some havoc with ice conditions this afternoon, but that’s part of the charm of Hockey Day Minnesota. My prediction is that the volunteers here in Moorhead will work their rear ends off to keep the ice as playable as possible, and then the players will just play through it just like they have every other Hockey Day. From the moment this event was conceived nearly six years ago in a mid-summer meeting between the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North staff, we had a hunch we were onto something special. Each of the five Hockey Days since then have confirmed that hunch. We’ve seen Hockey Day games played in all sorts of conditions–brutal cold (Baudette Bay), snow flurries (St. Paul), rain, yes, rain (Hermantown) and, now, bright sun and warmer weather (Moorhead). Every year presents a new challenge, and every year the spirit of Hockey Day Minnesota prevails.

That spirit fits perfectly into the Wild’s “State of Hockey” theme. Is there another state in the union where hockey moms and dads, aunts and uncles, and their best friend’s barber will spend countless, tireless, selfless hours to stage a couple of outdoor high school hockey games in the dead of winter? Where else would you see the local bakery whip up a Hockey Day cake in the shape and likeness of an ice rink that looks nearly regulation size? And, what other sport rallies around its tradition and heritage like Minnesota hockey?

Today’s first game between Roseau and Wayzata was a study in contrast (except for the fact that both teams were wearing white due to a little miscommunication…I thought it was fitting, though. In real pond hockey everyone’s wearing a different color jersey and part of the challenge is figuring out who you’re playing with, and against). Tiny, outstate Roseau vs. big, metro Wayzata.

Guess what? The game goes into overtime and a wrester by Wayzata senior defenseman Marc Richards finds its way through a maze of bodies and into the  Roseau net.  Jubilation on the Wayzata side and a bit of despair from Roseau, but within moments the two teams composed themselves and were at center ice shaking each other’s hands because that’s what hockey tradition dictates. And, nothing is bigger in hockey than its tradition.

That tradition is what demanded that Hockey Day Minnesota be played outdoors in the first place. We had high hopes six years ago, but I don’t think any of us would have predicted the scenes we’ve seen since.

I guess we know we’ve made it when Governors and Senators show up to do the ceremonial puck drop as they did in Moorhead today. They expect 7000 people this afternoon when the hometown Spuds take on Hill Murray.

The ice may be soft. The sun may be in the boys’ eyes. The puck probably won’t sit down, but the game will go on. And, I imagine years from now nearly no one will remember the score, but everyone involved will remember the experience. And, for that, our good friends in Moorhead who worked all those tireless hours and so willingly embraced the Hockey Day spirit deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation.

2:48

Now midway through the second period of the game, and the ice is in shambles right now. The Moorhead goalie is literally walking in his crease it is so chewed up. They’ve now gotten creative and moved the net up above the crease, which doesn’t exactly make things even, but safety has to be the priority at this point.

Meanwhile, the Aeros are having a fun time. After a shootout contest (Robbie Earl was the last man not to score) the Aeros were joined by a youth girls team, who took part in some drills with the big guys. This is what hockey is all about!

1:45

I’m now taking the Moorhead-Hill-Murray game from the Al Shaver Press Box. Down below, Mike Yeo his guiding his Houston Aeros through a practice in advance of tomorrow’s big tilt with the Peoria Rivermen here at Xcel Energy Center. By the way, you can still purchase tickets for that game for just $15, but if you can’t be here, the game will be streamed live on Wild.com.

First off, I’m so happy to see Moorhead goaltender the Moorhead goaltender sporting the toque on top of his helmet. I’m a little surprised to not see the same thing on the noggin of Hill-Murray’s Tim Shaughnessy, who was featured last week on Wild.com. Shaughnessy was the goaltender who won the Xcel Energy Center crowd over at last year’s skills competition. He came up big many times in the shootout with Wild players, and saved his best save for last, when he denied Mikko Koivu’s patented backhand flip and then taunted the Wild captain.

We’ve seen some great fashion choices, what with the goaltender’s toque, Al Franken’s hat, but nothing can top the ensemble that Pioneer Press beat writer Bruce Brothers was rocking on the FSN broadcast.

10:11 a.m.

Watching a beautiful rendition of the national anthem by Kallie Frost, who is not trying to over-sing and remembered every word perfectly. Super Bowl organizers, take note. You don’t always need a pop star to be patriotic.

The sun is powerful in Moorhead this morning, so the players are sporting the eye black today. You’ve got to love it.

I’m a little disappointed that neither goaltender is sporting a toque, but Senator Al Franken is more than making up for it with his fur hat as he drops the puck for the opening faceoff.

One thing I’m a bit concerned about is both teams are wearing white jerseys and white socks. Are they going to get confused? Are we going to see 30 goals this game because players keep dishing the puck off to the wrong team? Will players score on their own goalies? I am petrified right now.

And finally, I love the circular buildings in the background. I don’t know if they are silos, or what, but they add character to the beautiful scene. Off we go!

9:12 a.m.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Hockey Day Minnesota is finally upon us. Fox Sports North has 14 hours of hockey coverage on the docket, so I suggest you load up on non perishables today. If you’re not going to attend a hockey game, or play a hockey game, then the davenport is where you’ll want to be.

Kids, you should always exercise, but this Saturday is one in which being lazy is welcome. Let the folks at FSN do all the work.

Check back throughout the day on Wild.com and Wild.com/hockeyday for updates from here, updates from Wild Chief Operating Officer, Matt Majka who is in Moorhead and watching his son play for Wayzata and photos from Moorhead from Jim Rosvold.

We’ll also have videos, and of course, full coverage of the scorching Wild’s rematch with the St. Louis Blues tonight. To get you started, you’ll want to check out the latest Wild TV feature: 4-foot-7: Portman vs. Glen Avon – The Road To City Supremacy. You may have seen 24/7: Penguins vs. Capitals on HBO. But those two teams look like allies compared to the Mini-Mite squads in Duluth.

Stay tuned for more throughout the day, here on Wild.com.