Real fun night of hockey here at Mariucci Arena, where 30 locked-out NHLers put on a show for 3,000 hockey-starved fans.
“It’s like back to your old shinny days in the outdoors," Wild defenseman Justin Falk said. "Fun, … and competitive, because guys are getting the itch to play.”
Army, who got a tongue-lashing by KARE-11's Dave Schwartz (I may be exaggerating) after trailing 3-1 in the first intermission, rallied for a 9-7 win over the Air Force, coached by KARE-11's Rena Sarigianopoulos.
Former Wild great Wes Walz and his former linemate Stephane Veilleux each scored two goals, including once each in the shootout to lift the Army. Cal Clutterbuck scored twice, Matt Kassian, Erik Johnson and Ryan Suter once. Kassian's goal was silky smooth breakaway goal, and it came on his birthday.
For the Air Force, Blake Wheeler was awesome with a goal and three assists. His fellow former Gopher Kyle Okposo had a hat trick for "a nice little homecoming." Ryan Carter, Matt Hendricks and Jimmy O'Brien each scored.
In all, the locked-out NHLers raised in Defending the Blue Line Founder Shane Hudella's guesstimation probably $50,000 for the non-profit organization.
"I think the guys can sympathize how much this lockout is affecting an organization like ours," Hudella said.
Just a real cool cause. Jack Jablonski dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. Military kids met each player at their car and carried their bags to the locker room.
Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who hopefully we see in a Wild sweater someday again, played two periods. He was on the winning end and decided not to attempt a penalty shot like he did in Friday’s “Champs for Charity” game in Chicago because “I want to keep it 1 for 1. I like the sound of that.”
Two days ago at the "Champs for Charity" game in Chicago, Ryan Suter talked with Craig Custance from ESPN the Magazine and took some swipes at the owners, including Wild owner Craig Leipold.
The story can be found at this link.
In the story, Suter questioned whether Leipold negotiated the 13-year, $98 million contracts given to him and Zach Parise in good faith (in other words, knowing that the NHL would be asking for a rollback in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Suter said in Custance's story: "It's disappointing. If you can't afford to (sign contracts) then you shouldn't do it. (Leipold) signed us to contracts. At the time he said everything was fine. Yeah, it's disappointing. A couple months before, everything is fine, and now they want to take money out of our contracts that we already signed."
Tonight, prior to the Defending the Blue Line charity game here at Mariucci, I interviewed Suter. He said after thinking about the things he said, he wanted to make clear he doesn't think Leipold negotiated the contracts in bad faith and that he's just frustrated because he wants to be playing.
Here's a piece of the interview:
“I thought a lot about since what I said, I don’t question Craig Leipold and Minnesota with regards to negotiating our contracts in good faith. I don’t question that. That might have came off wrong. I don’t question that. It’s just frustrating. We just want to play. We support Don in what he’s doing. Obviously you sign a contract, and you want to hold true to that. I think, and I hope, everything works out.”