Good news, Wild fans.
Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise are still with us -- and with all their limbs intact, as well.
During today’s locked-out player scrimmage in St. Louis Park, Buffalo Sabres behemoth John Scott, who once upon a time became a Wild fan favorite the second he fixed his hair before beating the daylights out of Alex Bolduc (“I’ve got a little bald spot, so I was trying to cover it up,” Scott quote from that 2010 game story), nearly decapitated both Wild stars (assuming the lockout one day ends) on one play in front of the net.
“Well, they were cutting to the front of the net,” Scott said matter of factly.
Scott crunched ‘em both, causing Koivu and Parise to hit the deck. My stomach nearly turned inside-out when I realized I may be writing about the annihilation of two Wild players who are on (locked-out) contracts totaling upwards of 145 million bucks.
But, both Koivu and Parise slowly got up … laughing. Scott just skated away with a grin.
“The level of intensity is picking up, I guess,” Parise said afterward.
Last night, NHLPA rep Joe Reekie provided a dinner update for the locked-out players here in Minnesota at the McCormick & Schmick’s at the Westin in Edina.
Essentially, from talking to many of the players today, it was an update on the lockout, how the union believes it’s offering a proposal that will help the struggling franchises in the NHL and that it plans to stand its ground. The hope is once regular-season games are inevitably canceled (the rest of the preseason and final three Wild games were canceled today due to “the absence of CBA”) that owners will start to cave once revenue is lost (this from more than a handful of players).
Of course, revenue has already started to be lost.
The players said Reekie said the good news is Friday’s negotiation between the NHL and NHLPA (first since Sept. 12, even though it’s considered talks about non-core economic issues) has turned into three days of scheduled meetings.
This was indeed confirmed to me by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but hey, communication between these two stubborn sides has to be, as one player said, considered to be a breakthrough.
Parise, who is throwing ideas around about having a charity game to benefit Defending the Blue Line on Oct. 28 at Mariucci Arena, says he has an opportunity to play for a team he wouldn’t disclose in Switzerland and he will make that decision soon if the meetings this weekend appear to go nowhere.
“Keeping our fingers crossed,” Parise said. “I think every one’s still in a holding pattern waiting to see where this is going, but at some point, you have to worry about yourself and make sure you’re ready to play.”
Remember, Parise said a few weeks ago that because he missed so much time with a knee injury a few years back, he refused to potentially and essentially miss two out of three years. That wouldn’t be good for him, or the Wild – once the lockout eventually ends.
So he needs to play, he feels.
If he leaves before the charity game, he said the show can still go on, but it may be without him.
Players today said that if talks this weekend go nowhere, they can see a flood of guys going overseas around Oct. 11-13, the scheduled time the regular season is supposed to begin.
A bunch of players said to me the places that may be flooded are Switzerland, Germany, Italy, maybe Czech.
First of all, the quality of life is great there (I was just in Switzerland, Germany and Czech Republic, and it's awesome minus the $8 Starbucks in Lucerne and Zurich), but unlike Russia, travel is a breeze in those countries. In Switzerland, you bus or train everywhere and typically sleep in your own bed after games.
Matt Cullen told me in Russia, travel is basically like the NHL. Long trips. He said his brother Mark just took a flight for one day to basically the far side of Asia.
“You don’t want to be exhausted when you come back [after the lockout],” Cullen said.
Lots of players said today the hard part with the scrimmages is staying motivated because they don’t know if at the end of the day there will be a training camp.
They’ve hired local broadcaster, public address announcer and former local hockey legend Jimmy Carroll to officiate the scrimmages. He took a lot of grief today. Kinda like the NFL replacements, he actually makes you miss Dennis LaRue and Don VanMassenhoven (just a joke, just a joke Jimmy).
“We’re all starting to get a little antsy,” Parise said. “We’re so used to at this time of the year doing something and normally playing exhibition games right now. We’re doing our best to keep the intensity up as much as you can in the scrimmages without hitting each other and trying to stay in game shape.”
The scrimmages continue to be fun to watch. The AHLers like Alex Stalock have left, but there’s been a good group that plans to stick around (local Wild players Harding (lives here now), Veilleux, Prosser, Parise), plus out-of-towners like Clutterbuck, Koivu, Powe, Backstrom, Falk, Stoner, as well as guys like Opkoso, Byfuglien, Wheeler, Martin, Goligoski, Ballard, Alberts, Hillen, Lundin, Porter, Scott, Smaby, Drewiske, Thompson, etc). Devin Setoguchi appears to have left, as well as the guys based near Madison (Tom Gilbert, etc), where they have a good skate going.
David Backes is on his way back to Minnesota from St. Louis to join his group because numbers have dwindled down there.
Aeros players reported today for the beginning of training camp. Medicals and fitness testing. They’ll be on the ice at the X on Friday, and then open, free scrimmages at the X are Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m.
Then the players will caravan via cars down to Houston for the rest of camp over a day-and-a-half, stopping off in Kansas City for some shuteye.