The last of the original Wild closes the book

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 8, 2009 - 11:57 PM

Marian Gaborik appeared in St. Paul to reflect on his time in Minnesota and to say thank you.

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Marian Gaborik is heading to New York to join the Rangers, but first wanted to say goodbye. “I’ve been here for nine years,” he said. “I just wanted to say a few things. I felt I owed it to the community and the people here to say thanks to all the fans that have been unbelievable through the years."

Photo: Jeffrey Thompson, Star Tribune

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Marian Gaborik wanted to talk, wanted to say a proper goodbye to Minnesota.

He walked into the lobby of the St. Paul Hotel on Wednesday wearing khaki clam-digger pants and a T-shirt, looking fit, and took a seat in the lobby. A week after the best player in Wild history signed with the New York Rangers, Gaborik sounded wistful and reflective, even as he expressed optimism about his decision.

"I've been here for nine years," he said. "I just wanted to say a few things. I felt I owed it to the community and the people here to say thanks to all the fans that have been unbelievable through the years.

"The building was sold out every game, and the people, in general, were always nice. I wanted to thank my teammates I played with through the years, and the coaching staff, and the whole organization that pretty much brought me here and made me part of their family. I wanted to thank the ownership, too, and Mr. [Craig] Leipold and everyone."

Gaborik signed a five-year contract worth $37.5 million with the Rangers following a turbulent and injury-filled final season with the Wild. He said he never received a contract offer from the Wild, and that the Rangers' immediate and persuasive sales pitch made his decision easy.

He said he never bought a house in Vancouver, as was suggested in some reports.

"I had no decision to make in order to stay here because I haven't gotten any offers under the new era of management," Gaborik said. "So I had no decision to make. Now I'm a Ranger and I'm excited about that."

Gaborik said as soon as free agency began, the Rangers dispatched a scout with a presentation that included a DVD featuring the organization and the city of New York. "They were there right away," he said. "If you feel that somebody is that interested, then you give them a lot of consideration, and they were the favorite from the get-go.

"I haven't played there that often, but when I have played there, just Madison Square Garden and the city overall, it's amazing, something special. It's going to be something new for me and I'm looking forward to that."

Gaborik's career was marked by conflict with then-General Manager Doug Risebrough and coach Jacques Lemaire -- the only NHL coach for whom he has played.

"I talked to Doug, after," Gaborik said. "I talked to Jacques on the phone and I thanked him. We came aboard together and we pretty much left at the same time. I don't think the team -- or myself -- would be where it is right now without him.

"He really helped me a lot early on in my career, and I thanked him for that. We wished each other good luck. Obviously, we had some ups and downs together, but I think everybody, when you have a coach-player relationship that lasts that long, there are going to be ups and downs. But overall we were on the same page, and it was good."

Gaborik maintained that same positive tone throughout the conversation, preferring not to look back in anger or with regret.

He remembered the Wild's surprising run to the conference finals in 2003, and his five-goal game two seasons ago at the X against the Rangers.

"That was something," he said, "where you hear 18,000 people chanting, that was unbelievable, great.

"It was a great run. I didn't want to leave without saying something like this, about the exciting years I have experienced here. We had the playoff run, and my first goal, and a lot of pleasant experiences. Now that I'm moving on it's a great new opportunity to play for the Rangers. I'm very excited about that, I'm looking forward to that. It's a new start of not just hockey life but life overall."

What if the Wild had changed their coach and general manager a year ago? Would that have increased the chances of him re-signing?

"I don't know," he said. "I can't ask 'What if?' It all happened this way, and I'm not looking back. I just wanted to say thanks."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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