During a touching news conference three hours before Sunday’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks, the Wild signed 16-year-old Carter Casey of Breckenridge, Minn., to a one-day professional contract in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement.
Coach Bruce Boudreau had the honor because General Manager Chuck Fletcher is in Florida attending the NHL’s GMs meeting.
Boudreau began the presser by telling those gathered, including Casey’s mother, Shanna, father, Carl, and brother, Justin, that “we have a new player in town and we’re going to make sure he’s part of our group. Carter’s had a little bit of rough luck lately, but … it’s my honor to be able to sign this [contract] and have you be part of the Wild. I know you’re going to in any way you can bring us the championship this year.”
Casey, a rabid hockey fan, was a defenseman until 15 months ago when he was shockingly diagnosed with a rare form of muscle cancer. He has endured countless aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments since.
As part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Carter’s wish was to meet the Wild. He was the 5,000th wish recipient in Make-A-Wish Minnesota’s 35-year history.
After signing Casey’s contract, Boudreau handed the youngster the pen and kidded, “Sign here if you want your million.” After the pact was official, Boudreau told Casey, “We’re going to use your spirit as a way to motivate us.”
Besides signing the contract and receiving a Wild sweater, Casey taped sticks from the bench, got an arena and press box tour, met the Wild broadcasters, watched warmups from the penalty box and met players during a locker-room tour after the game.
Casey’s tour was given by his favorite player, Erik Haula. “He’s really energetic, an electric player, and he’s from the Gophs,” Casey said of Haula.
Boudreau was genuinely moved to be part of Casey’s special day.
“We are out here worrying about little things that happen during the course of the game, while this young gentleman is fighting for his life,” Boudreau said. “It puts everything in perspective.”
Left-shot Zach Parise, on a line with right-shot winger Chris Stewart and Eric Staal, said he played right wing for the first time in his life Sunday. Why the switch?
“I thought, quite frankly, that Eric Staal looks to his right more than he looks to his left sometimes, so if Zach’s on the right side and if Zach crosses the blue line, he gets to open up, he gets to see the play,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know. These are just stupid things I think at home, and I’ll probably change my mind in a week. Who knows? But it worked. I thought that line played well.”
Parise liked the position “from our blue line out” because there are more options entering the offensive zone from the off-side.
“D-zone is the part I’ll have to work on and get better at,” Parise said. “You learn in peewees, you don’t want to be looking where you’re coming from, so it’s tough with that little blind area. A couple times Stewy and I were all over the place trying to figure out who was going where, but we made it work.”
During one goalmouth scrum, Stewart even accidentally landed a right hook on Parise’s face. “It’s chippy at the front of the net, so, I just was making sure he was into the game,” Stewart joked. “I thought I’d wake him up.”