The oppressive heat that's hung over much of Minnesota the past week or so made it especially appealing to think about the upcoming hockey season as the hometown Wild courted Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Even though it initially seemed unlikely that the team could land the two free-agent stars, the National Hockey League fantasy was a nice distraction for dedicated Wild fans and winning-starved State of Hockey residents who would like to jump on a bandwagon -- any bandwagon -- with a legitimate shot of winning.
Prepare to take that leap, sports fans. The July 4th signings of both Parise and Suter to $98 million, 13-year deals touched off a celebration that could last for years if the two players stay healthy and continue to be among the NHL's best at their positions.
Credit Wild owner Craig Leipold and General Manager Chuck Fletcher, who sold the pair on the opportunity to play together and jump-start a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since the 2007-08 season.
That both Parise and Suter have strong state ties made the signings even sweeter. Parise is the son of former North Stars player and coach J.P. Parise, and Suter married a Minnesota native. Parise (North Dakota) and Suter (Wisconsin) can now be forgiven for their questionable judgment in choosing colleges.
Minnesotans know that the heat wave will break any day, and that the ice will be frozen at Xcel Energy Center before the leaves turn. Hopefully the NHL's threatened lockout will be avoided, too. With Parise and Suter in Wild jerseys, the 2012-13 season can't start soon enough.
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