Kent Youngblood here. With Russo out east for a wedding, I'm watching the Wild today. And it was a good one if you're a Darby Hendrickson fan. And who isn't?
Seems like so much of Darby's career has played out here in Minnesota, from his being named Mr. Minnesota Hockey when playing at Richfield High School, to his two years at the University of Minnesota, to the years he played here as an inaugural member of the Wild.
"It's humbling," Hendrickson said today. "It's hard to explain. You can still be around a game as a broadcaster. But to have an opportunity to coach is something I hoped one day to have."
Well, you have it now. Head coach Todd Richards has hired Hendrickson, who scored the first home goal in Wild history, on Oct. 11, 2000 in a 3-3 tie vs. Philadelphia --, to be his third assistant. It is a full-time gig, which means Hendrickson will have to give up his job as a divisional representative with the NHL Players Association and his gig with Fox Sports North as part of the Wild broadcasts.
"You walk into it new," Hendrickson said of the transition from being on-ice to being a part of the coaching staff. It hasn't been that long since Hendrickson finished playing; he played his last NHL game with Colorado during the 2003-04 season and played professionally in Austria during the 2006-07 season.
"We feel he is a young guy, energetic," Richards said. "He's a guy who is recently retired from the game. He knows a lot about the game, about the players. We feel there is a lot he can add to our staff."
Richards thinks Hendrickson's relative youth -- he is 38 -- will be a plus. "He's another voice, another opinion, another set of eyes," Richards said. "You go through a hockey season listening to me or the other two assistants, and it gets a little bit redundant. Now you bring in a guy who is close in age to a lot of players, he might be able to relate in a little bit of a different way to the players. I wanted someone who will be passionate, who knows the game, is a good communicator and works hard. Above everything else, I wanted a good person."
Hendrickson fits all of the above criteria.
Meanwhile, the Wild formally introduced new players John Madden, Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom along with Mikko Koivu, who did his first press in-person appearance since signing his big contract extension earlier in the year.
Perhaps most important is that Koivu reports that he is ready to go after having shoulder and knee surgery back in April. "Yes, I'm full-go," Koivu said. "Just need to see the doctor here first. But the doctor who did the surgery over in Finland said everything is right on schedule, as strong as it can be."
Here's one interesting tidbit. I was talking with Madden about his time in Michigan. Did you know that Madden had a part in one of the most spectacular goals ever scored against the Gophers?
Gophers fans will remember the regional final against the Wolverines on March 24, 1996. The Gophers were leading 2-1 in the second period when Mike Legg, from behind the net, pulled off the spectacular play. He scooped the puck onto his stick blade, stepped towards the net and stuck it into the net in the high corner, just above goaltender Steve DeBus to tie the game. The Wolverines won, 4-3, to advance to the Frozen Four, and they eventually won the national championship.
Madden was on the ice at the same time. He said Friday that he got the first assist on the play. "I passed him the puck, then went over to the other side of the net," Madden said. "I was tapping my stick (looking for a pass), but then I saw what he was doing was like, 'No way!' " That goal changed everything. It was like the ice was tilted our way after that."
Legg won an ESPY for most outrageous play of the year but never played in the NHL.
That's about all. Have a good day.