Paul Bissonnette recited the three keys to the game for the Coyotes and then paused to take a sip of water.
He was quiet again once the puck dropped last Thursday between the Wild and Coyotes, as play-by-play voice Bob Heethuis started to chronicle the action next to Bissonnette inside the home radio booth. Bissonnette shifted his head back and forth to track the play before standing up and shuffling papers so both lineups were visible.
And after a close call near the Wild’s net, he scribbled a star by Arizona rookie Clayton Keller’s name.
“He sucks two guys into the offensive zone,” Bissonnette later explained while rehashing the sequence. “Makes a beautiful saucer pass.”
It wasn’t that long ago Bissonnette was strapped in skates on the ice instead of saddled in the press box under a headset. Just last season, he suited up in the American Hockey League for the Los Angeles Kings affiliate.
But once his career wrapped up after 12 pro seasons, Bissonnette quickly established a routine for retirement by latching on with the Coyotes.
Aside from being their radio color analyst, he’s a frequent face on TV broadcasts, acts as an ambassador for the organization by representing it at charity events and produces content for the Coyotes website.
And although Bissonnette certainly isn’t the first to settle into a new role after his playing days expired, his ability to carve out a job description that suits his skills seems to highlight the importance of planning for life after hockey.
“It’s been a great transition,” Bissonnette said. “I get to go on the road with the guys. There’s still a bit of a connection with some of the players, so it’s been awesome.”
Bissonnette started to brainstorm his future while he was still an active player.
He had spent the previous five seasons in Arizona, skating sparingly on the Coyotes fourth line but emerging as a fan favorite for his work ethic on the ice and uncensored personality online.
But the Coyotes’ decision to not bring him back ahead of the 2014-15 season was an eye-opener for Bissonnette.
“I was at home depressed on the couch,” he said.
Eventually, Bissonnette was back with a team; the Coyotes added him to their minor league squad on a tryout before he joined the Kings AHL team. And in 2015, he lifted the Calder Cup when the Manchester Monarchs were crowned AHL champions. But he had reached out to the Coyotes and expressed his belief that the two sides would be a great fit for each other.
“I knew that the social media was going to help me out and give me a job,” Bissonnette said. “Hockey’s so desperate for personalities.”
Active online as “BizNasty2point0,” Bissonnette has been entertaining Twitter for years with his self-deprecating humor. He has more than a million followers on Twitter and another 182,000 on Instagram, where he uses his brand to showcase other projects besides his work with the Coyotes.
The 32-year-old recently toured San Francisco for hotels.com and has posted about what he calls a “mockumentary” he filmed in British Columbia with a slew of NHLers.
“I want to bring the personality out of these players,” Bissonnette said. “ … They have awesome personalities. I feel like hockey fans deserve it. I feel like hockey players get such a bad rep for being boring, but they’re not. It’s just the way it is. They come from a lot of good homes where they don’t want to make it about themselves.”
Not only does Bissonnette encourage players to create a social media platform to help spread their respective messages, he also suggests they start to consider their post-playing days while still employed — and Wild players have.
“I think the dream job is a college coach,” winger Daniel Winnik said.
Winger Jason Zucker would love to help younger players with the mental side of the game.
“My passion’s always been psychology,” he said. “I actually majored in it in college. I didn’t get too far in it, of course, but I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind and athletes and the way things work. It’s crazy to me. I’d love to stay in hockey and bring that aspect into it.”
Goalie Devan Dubnyk also would like to remain involved in the sport as an NHL goalie coach, a responsibility he anticipates he’d relish.
And while forecasting the future may be important, it doesn’t have to come at the expense of embracing the present.
“It’s good to think about it,” Dubnyk said. “It’s good to get an idea of what you’d want to do and what you’d be happy doing and see how it comes. But I think the most important thing is to make sure you enjoy every second you get to put the gear on because that’s the best part of it.”
• Deadline dealing: The most surprising move before the NHL trade deadline expired Monday might have been the Blues’ decision to send center Paul Stastny to the Jets, a deal that also included two draft picks and a prospect. Although St. Louis was in a putrid skid at the time, eventually losing seven straight before snapping out of its funk, the team is still very much in contention for a playoff spot. That’s why it was baffling the team made a seller move, instead of beefing up to improve its push.
• Familiar trading partners: What was unique about a handful of the trades executed before the deadline was how many were conducted between division rivals. The Rangers and Devils engineered their first trade ever; aside from the Jets-Blues swap, the Blackhawks and Predators also made a deal. So did the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. Helping out the competition doesn’t always happen, but that probably matters less if teams feel the price is right.
• At the top: Predators General Manager David Poile became the winningest GM in NHL history Thursday when Nashville secured a 4-2 win over Edmonton. Poile passed the legendary Glen Sather, moving into sole possession of first at 1,320 victories. What’s neat about the accomplishment is Poile has led just two organizations — the Predators and Capitals. And he’s employed only five head coaches, a nod to the success he’s maintained throughout the years.
Wild’s week ahead
Sunday: 6 p.m. vs. Detroit
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Carolina
Friday: 9 p.m. at Vancouver
Saturday: 9 p.m. at Edmonton
Sun. NBCSN; Tue., Fri. and Sat. FSN
Player to watch:
Conor McDavid, Oilers
It’s been a disappointing season for Edmonton, but McDavid is still in the mix to nab the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s highest scorer; he boasted 77 points through 64 games to sit third in the NHL.
“I knew coming here was going to be a good fit for me. ... It’s been everything I could’ve imagineD.”
Center Eric Staal on rediscovering his scoring touch with the Wild.
Sarah McLellan covers the Wild and NHL hockey for the Star Tribune.