Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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."
ST. PAUL — After a back alley brawl on Sunday night that might go down as the best fight in the NHL this season, Wild rookie Nick Seeler was given a well-deserved day off on Monday, March 5. "He's just sore all over, I think," coach Bruce Boudreau explained, describing the scuffle as something straight out of the 1970s. Asked if the rookie might be able to play Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center, Boudreau said, "I'm hoping. We were saying he was sore so today he should take the day off."
ST. PAUL—There's something unexplainable about being at an NHL rink that can make even the toughest times a little bit easier. Whether it's the bright lights, or the cheering fans, or simply getting back into a daily routine, it has a way of defeating tragedy, even if it's only for a few moments. Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau experienced that unspoken phenomenon after the unexpected death of his younger brother, Bryan, about six months ago. "You need the games," the 63-year-old said. "I just wanted to play and work so I didn't have to sit and think."