Zac Dalpe is as big an O.A.R. fan as you’d expect from somebody who went to Ohio State.
The guys in the band, including lead singer Marc Roberge and guitarist Richard On, all are Buckeyes, “so when you walk around Ohio State, O.A.R. is all you hear,” Dalpe said.
In fact, there are Ohio State references in many of the popular rock band’s songs, and Dalpe, the injured Wild center, has seen them in concert a number of times.
Last Thursday, Dalpe sat down in Andrew Heydt’s office and asked the Wild’s operations manager what he was up to. Heydt told him Roberge and On, in the Twin Cities to play the Cities 97 Sampler Release Party, were about to meet him so they could skate at Xcel Energy Center.
“I said, ‘No seriously, what are you up to today?’ ” Dalpe recalled.
Heydt told Dalpe that he had gotten to know O.A.R.’s tour manager, Chris Wrightsman, and Roberge over the past few years while working for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Twins.
Stunned, Dalpe said, “Do you know I went to Ohio State, that O.A.R.’s my thing? You’ve got to let me meet them.”
Dalpe, 27, plays guitar. He fancies himself a singer, too, even playing at a few teammates’ weddings and once singing “I Will Remember You” with Sarah McLachlan and some Vancouver teammates at a Canucks charity event.
Dalpe ran to get lunch when Heydt suddenly called with an offer: “What do you think about bringing your guitar back with you in case there’s time to play with them?”
Dalpe dropped everything and sprinted home for his guitar. One giant problem. Dalpe didn’t know any O.A.R. songs, he said, “because their musicianship is through the roof.”
To show you how talented Dalpe is, he quickly looked up the chords of the song “About an Hour Ago,” which coincidentally was the first song O.A.R. wrote, then “learned it by ear.”
Dalpe hustled back to the arena. He would have given anything to skate with Roberge and On, but because he’s not yet cleared to get on the ice following knee surgery, Dalpe watched two of his favorite musicians from the bench.
Having grown up near Washington, D.C., the guys from O.A.R. are hockey fans. Most grew up Capitals fans, and Roberge, who plays in a beer league, and On flipped when they realized former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was the Wild’s head coach and former Capitals star defenseman Scott Stevens was a Wild assistant.
They badly wanted to meet Stevens, but he had left the rink for the afternoon.
“They were good, for not being hockey players,” Dalpe said, laughing.
Finally, Roberge, On and Dalpe walked back to Heydt’s office. Dalpe sat on a couch and got out his guitar for a rendition of “About an Hour Ago.” On grabbed a guitar, and with Roberge leading the way, the three proceeded to jam.
“I was so nervous,” Dalpe said. “It was super cool. Just the nicest guys, and these guys were real hockey fans. They knew the game. It was just so cool to talk hockey with … O.A.R.!”
Roberge and On not only signed Dalpe’s guitar, Roberge drew the tree design from O.A.R.’s album “In Between Now and Then.”
This wasn’t the first time Dalpe’s been on stage. He played as former NHLer David Booth walked down the aisle at his wedding. Even Dale Wiese and former Wild minor-leaguer Tyson Strachan have asked Dalpe to play at their weddings.
During the 2013-14 season, when Dalpe played for Vancouver, teammates paid a band so Dalpe could play two sets of six songs with them at the famous Tootsie’s in Nashville. By coincidence, Dalpe’s old team, the Carolina Hurricanes, also were in town, so his current team and former team got to watch him perform.
“I like to think I can sing,” Dalpe said. “My mom was a really good singer. We grew up always singing and playing guitar. We’re a pretty musical family. I don’t know if I’m a great singer, but I can hold a little bit of a tune.”
In the meantime, when Dalpe isn’t jamming with O.A.R., he’s working exhaustively to get back into the Wild lineup. He hopes to begin skating this week.
“I was pretty upset when [the injury] happened,” said Dalpe, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 31 to repair a torn meniscus. “I felt like I was playing the best hockey of my NHL career at the time. I’m just battling every day to get better. I just to need to get back. There’s no timetable. I’m just hungry, super hungry.”