Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Nick Seeler is one of many players that longtime Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia helped reach the next level before stepping down on Tuesday, March 20. The 24-year-old defenseman is the only person in the Wild locker room who played for Lucia, who became synonymous with one of the nation's top college programs over the past two decades. "What a career he had," Seeler said. "It's pretty special to look back on. I grew up watching the Gophers, and he was obviously the coach. He had many years of success, and it's sad to see him go."
ST. PAUL — Wild coach Bruce Boudreau flipped over to NHL Network on Tuesday, March 20, like he usually does when his team isn't playing. "I was either giving a big cheer or getting ticked off," Boudreau said. "That's what this time of the year is all about. That's what makes sports so exciting." There are those who take comfort in the fact that nobody can pass the Wild for third place in the Central Division during Minnesota's unusual four-day break since Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The 63-year-old Boudreau isn't one of them.
With Don Lucia officially out after 19 seasons as the head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team, rumors are swirling about who will replace him. Here are five contenders: BOB MOTZKO: The St. Cloud State head coach is likely the person most Gophers fans want. He has tons of charisma and has led St. Cloud State to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.
ST. PAUL — Ryan Murphy admitted to losing his way early in his professional career. As a first-round draft pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011, expectations were for the 18-year-old Canadian to become one of hockey's next great offensive threats on the blue line. Murphy never lived up to the hype, though, and when he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild last offseason, he was making a fresh start.
ST. PAUL — Eric Staal chuckled at a question after Monday's morning skate. With the 33-year-old Wild forward closing in on 40 goals for the third time in his career, a reporter asked whether he would have believed it if someone told him before the season that he would be flirting with that milestone now considering his career was left for the dead when he signed with Minnesota in July 2016. "Would you have?" Staal wondered with a smile. "No. I don't think so."
ST. PAUL—St. Paul Saints general manager Derek Sharrer watched with both glee and dread Friday night, March 16, as No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County thoroughly dismantled No. 1 overall seed Virginia in an unprecedented NCAA Tournament upset that people will talk about for years to come. As a diehard college basketball fan, Sharrer was thrilled to be watching the historic performance in real time. That said, his stomach was doing backflips knowing the minor-league baseball team he's in charge of was out $10,000. Why? Let's rewind.
LAS VEGAS — Wild winger Jason Zucker has had this road trip circled on the calendar since the NHL schedule was released last June. In that sense, perhaps it's not surprising that the 26-year-old seemed downright giddy in the visitor's locker room on Thursday, March 15, following a lengthy practice at T-Mobile Arena. "It's really weird coming here knowing that we're playing a game tomorrow," Zucker said. "It's something I never thought was going to happen."
ST. PAUL—As replays of Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon crumbling into the boards were shown on the jumbotron on Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center, the collective gasp of the announced crowd of 19,171 said pretty much everything that needed to be said. Spurgeon appeared to lose an edge early in the third period while attempting to play a pass from goaltender Devan Dubnyk. He did the splits going into the boards and stayed down on the ice for a few minutes before retreating to the locker room unable to put any weight on the lower half of his body.
Perched in the press box at the Rogers Center over the weekend, Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson swears he wasn't watching the live stream of the boys state hockey tournament. Well, at least not while the Wild game against the Vancouver Canucks was actually going on. "Yes, I was watching our game," Hendrickson said with a laugh. "I had the live stream going between periods." Who could blame him? His son, Mason, was back home playing for Minnetonka in the Class 2A semifinals, and he was missing it with the Wild on a two-game road trip.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has watched in amazement as his reborn star forward Eric Staal works his way into the Hart Trophy conversation with seemingly every game he plays. "Start calling him Midas from now on," Boudreau said. "(Everything he touches) turns to gold. I hope it doesn't end."