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Minnesota Wild rookie Jason Zucke during his NHL debut last week.

Carlos Gonzalez, Dml - Star Tribune Star Tribune

Wild's Zucker offers special tribute to his parents

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD and MICHAEL RUSSO Staff Writers
  • April 3, 2012 - 8:36 PM

NASHVILLE - Like every hockey player, Jason Zucker puts a lot of time into making sure his sticks are prepared just right every game. But Zucker takes it one step further.

Zucker writes "Mom and Dad" in magic marker on each stick. It's a tribute to mother, Natalie, and father, Scott, and the role they played in his hockey career.

"I started doing it, wow, a while ago," Zucker said. "It was, maybe, when I was a pee-wee, because I was away from home so much then."

Zucker grew up in Las Vegas. One of five children who all played hockey, Zucker spent much of his development in California and Michigan because there were only three sheets of ice in Las Vegas, he said.

"I wish I could tell you all the things they did for me," Zucker said. "They were always driving one of us to the rink. My dad would be in Phoenix with one of us, while my mom and I would be in California. We were always at different tournaments. It was rare that we were ever in the same place at the same time. It was a huge sacrifice for them."

Hence the tribute. He did it as a kid, and he's done it at every level he has played at -- in the national development program, at University of Denver and now with the Wild.

Zucker said he's gotten no ribbing from teammates.

"It's different than writing, say, a girlfriend's name or something like that," he said. "But, even if they did, I wouldn't change it. I've put in on there for a long time, for a reason. I would never take that off."

Zucker's gotten four games under his belt and feels he's getting valuable experience. For instance, in Chicago, he learned quickly he can't make blind passes into the offensive slot or the puck can wind up in the back of your net.

"There's just little things in the college game that I don't want to say don't exist, but this is the best league in the world and there are things you can't get away with here," Zucker said.

Major obstacle

Mike Yeo joked that it's "punishment for not making the playoffs," but the coach and seven members of the Wild staff are training to do Tough Mudder in Somerset, Wis., on May 19.

Tough Mudder events are "hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie."

"We survived what [former Army Ranger] JB Spisso did to us last year, so we feel pretty brave," Yeo said, laughing.

Others training are assistants Darryl Sydor and Darby Hendrickson, strength and conditioning coach Kirk Olson, massage therapist Travis Green, equipment manager Tony DaCosta and athletic therapists Don Fuller and John Worley.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher, grinning, said he will not be doing Tough Mudder: "It doesn't sound like a lot of fun."

Etc.

• Yeo said defenseman Steve Kampfer, out because of a knee injury, made strides and showed he can execute at a high level since being acquired Feb. 27 from Boston for Greg Zanon.

"Not unlike most young defensemen, he needs to improve on consistency and being harder in and around his own net and down low in the defensive zone," Yeo said. "He's not going to be a guy that's punishing, but by all means, he has to be a guy that wins his battles and doesn't give up scoring opportunities."

• Center Warren Peters, who missed Sunday's victory at Chicago with a pinched nerve, returned. Cody Almond was reassigned.

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