Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor, who pleaded guilty to second degree driving while impaired last month, took the ice for his first practice of the season Tuesday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Coach Mike Yeo and Sydor met last week at a coffee shop to formulate a plan for Sydor’s return to the team.
Initially, Sydor will ease into things. He won’t be on the bench during games and won’t travel. Yeo said there is no timeline as to when Sydor will get back to his regular, full-time duties, but this was the first step and Yeo anticipates Sydor will begin to travel soon.
This morning, after practice, Sydor talked publicly for the first time since his Aug. 20 arrest for drunken driving with one of his children in the car. His eyes welled throughout the press scrum, and the bottom-line message was that Sydor has been portrayed a certain way and he wants to prove that the incident does not define him. He called it a huge mistake and says his mission now is to help others with the same disease.
He looked in his element on the ice, yucking it up with guys like Thomas Vanek, blowing his whistle during drills and joking with players afterward, like when he ribbed Zach Parise for walking out of Mariucci Arena with a case of bottled water: “It’s $3 at Target,” Sydor joked. Parise laughed, saying, “Things are tough at home.”
Here is a transcript of the interviews with Sydor and Yeo:
“First off, I just want to say that I’m thankful for the opportunity, I’m thankful for all the support that the Minnesota Wild, management and the coaching staff, the players have shown me through this time. Obviously, the support of my family and friends, I’m very thankful for that. And I’m also thankful for being in a place of recovery and being able to come back and be strong in it, being able to share, being able to help people in need.”
Good to be back? “Yeah, it felt good. It’s what I do, it’s what I’ve done. But being away gave me time to really look at a lot of things. And the one thing about is that my family is excited for me to be back, and that’s what makes it a lot easier for myself is just the support of my family, my kids to be back with the Wild.”
What did you mean by that you didn’t want this to define you? “I’ll go back to that day, Aug. 20. That’s not me. And I’m not going to let that day define who I am. I’m going to let recovery define who I am, I’m going to reach out like I have to people. It was a huge mistake. I don’t discount that at all. And I have to face the consequences. But it’s something that – that day is not going to define who I am. It’s going to make me stronger. Recovery is going to define who I am.”
What will make recovery successful? “That’s a good question. I’ve been battling this for some time. I was sober last year for over 400 days. But I was sober. I wasn’t in recovery. Recovery is what I’ve learned and really wholeheartedly attacked, and really took personal growth of learning about addiction, about learning about recovery, about working the program. I don’t use the word sober much anymore because without recovery and all the tools that I’ve learned so far – and I have a lot more to learn – but recovery is going to keep me in the right direction.”
Message for others? “That’s a good question because addiction is a huge part here and anywhere. I think when you see addiction, (and with) what I’ve been through and you hear a lot of stories. It’s a lot about embarrassment, it’s a lot about isolation, it’s a lot about people not reaching out until it’s rock bottom. I hit rock bottom. They talk about Alcoholics Anonymous, but there’s no need to be anonymous about it. You need to reach out and people need to know that there are other people that can help you through it. It’s amazing the amount of people that I’ve came across now that are maybe quiet about it, don’t talk about it, which leads to tough situations. So the biggest thing is to reach out and talk and ask for a helping hand.
Watching the Wild, what has it been like at home? “You know what it’s been like at home? It’s been really good. It’s been great. I’ve been able to spend time with my kids. When I retired from the game, after maybe about a half hour, I got right into coaching. Although the situation was not what we like, I was able to spend some time when we got back with my kids, with my wife. And have a little bit of family time. I’ve been watching the games. My kids want to go downstairs. I made a little area where we can watch the games and they’ve got their little knee hockey and it’s a fun time. Cherish those times. It’s been good at home, it’s been really good to be able to just have a good rapport again up with the kids, getting them to school and just laying with them at night, reading them stories. We were able to rescue a dog last week, so we’ve got a new puppy in the family. Everybody is happy about that. But just do a lot of neat things. The one thing is they were really excited that I was going back to work – in whatever capacity; it’s going to take time. But my 6 year old said, ‘Dad, where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going to work.’ He goes, ‘Where are you going to work?’ I said, ‘I’m going back to the Wild.’ He goes, ‘I knew you’d go back to the Wild.’ And it just brings smiles. I’m a different person now and those things are exciting.
On Sydor being back: Really nice. Came back yesterday. Yesterday was just an off-ice workout, but I thought that this would be a good opportunity to bring him back. Met with Darryl last week and had a pretty good feel that this would be the plan. Met with him a couple times here, talked with him, and I’m very confident that he’s in the right place and this is the right time to bring him back.
We missed Darryl a lot. He’s a very important part of our coaching staff, but that said, what he needed to do and what he needed to take care of for himself, for his family, that came first. And likewise right now. We’re confident that he’s ready for this given the steps that he’s taken, the work that he’s put in and the things that he’s done to try to get himself ready for this. We’re not just going to throw himself into the fire completely. We’re going to sort of, I would say, ease him into it and make sure that everything is going well. We need him. He’s an important part of our group, but his well-being has to come first and we’ll make sure of that as we go here.
He’s not going to travel with us initially here. I fully expect it will get to a point where he’ll get back on the road with us, but this was the first step. I don’t really have a timeline about how everything is going to progress. Again, he’s a very, very important part of our group and he’s a guy that we all care for very much and that’s why we want to just make sure that we’re doing everything we can to help make this as easy of a transition for him as possible.
When he’s here, he’s a coach. But I just think it’s important that we’ll get into a couple weeks with this without him traveling with us for now. Like I said, I don’t have a timeline for how everything’s going to go, but I’m confident we’ll get back to him just being in his full-time, regular capacity.
On bench? Not right now.
Some fans have asked if there’s any way to equate some of the defensive lapses to him not being here? “He does an awful lot of really good work. All your assistants, the work that they put in behind the scenes, it’s critical. Any coach out there that looks good, I can promise you that they have a very good assistant coaching staffl the work they do behind the scenes, the individual work, whether it’s making sure players are just in the right mind frame before they hit the ice, whether it’s confidence or just having the opportunity to talk to that coach, they always feel a bit more comfortable talking to the assistant coach than they do the head coach in a lot of instances, the one-on-one video. It’s sort of the personal touch and personal care part of the game that’s so important, and he’s a big part of that.”
Why are you so loyal to him? “He’s been loyal to me. I know who he is as a person, and I don’t want to get into too much detail, but he made a comment yesterday about not letting that incident define him as a person. I’ve been around him for a long time, and he made a huge mistake. He’s definitely owned up to that. He’s not just trying to throw it away and brush it off. He’s trying to do everything he can to make sure that going forward he’s doing everything he can the right way for the people around him.”
I'll be back later this afternoon with Mike Yeo's thoughts on the injuries to Tyler Graovac and Justin Fontaine, and how this will affect the Wild.