Good day from frigid Chicago, where the snow is starting to fall.
Maybe my eyes were deceiving me, but the Wild seemed to work just a touch harder as players showed off for many of their dads as they looked on today at Johnny's Ice House about a mile from the United Center. Who knew that Kim Johnsson had such roots in Chicago that he owned a rink here? Johnny said there's so many things in his "enterprise," he can't even keep track anymore.
The proudest papa may have been Tom Richards, a former elementary school teacher in Edina. He's been retired for 11 years and said his fulltime job these days is watching his five grandkids play hockey. In fact, Papa Richards was wearing a Breck Mustangs knit cap because his oldest daughter's son plays JV hockey there and got him that hat for Christmas.
I haven't even begun tomorrow's article, but I don't even know where to begin. I've got so much material and anecdotes already from the trip. Just some funny, funny stuff, like Andrew Brunette's open-mike night last night at the team dinner. There was a hysterical back and forth between Chuck Fletcher and Brunette that had players in tears. I'll definitely figure out a way to squeeze that in. Let's put it this way: Fletcher made it very clear to Brunette how much he values "speed."
Antti Miettinen's brother is here by the way, and they might as well be twins. Very unnerving. Brunette looks the most like his dad, Dan, "unfortunately." To make clear, that "unfortunately," is Andrew's line, not mine.
Dan and Andrew were doing a Wild TV interview as I was leaving the United Center just now, and they're both in hysterics. If Glen and Travis put that up on the site and it's not clear to you, the reason why is because Mikko Koivu and Papa Koivu were behind the camera making faces and doing the mock loud Brunette-style laugh that we've all grown accustomed to. And guess what? Papa Brunette has the same exact laugh. Unnerving. I always remember how much Marian Gaborik got a kick out of hearing Bruno laugh from like three rooms away in the Wild dressing room area.
Bruno, by the way, says Derek Boogaard needs to bring Len Boogaard everywhere because Derek scored 10 goals in practice today. Len had a better line as to why he should never leave his son's side. That'll be in the paper tomorrow.
If you didn't see, I did a story on Wild defenseman Nick Schultz for today's paper. He's sharing the trip with his brother, Terrence. Robert Schultz, as nice a guy as you'd ever meet, passed away before training camp last season. He was on the team's previous father-son trip. It can be read here .
Todd Richards has invited the dads to partake in every single meeting tomorrow up until gametime, from the prescout meetings to their PP and PK to even how they pick the lineup.
There were some nice scenes, like Cal Clutterbuck's dad handing Clutterbuck his skates before practice and Josh Harding's dad carrying in his son's helmet and other equipment.
Speaking of which, Harding, who typically plays well in the United Center, will get the start vs. the Hawks. Harding has played in the second of back-to-backs in his last five starts, so I bet he'll appreciate a fresh bunch in front of him. Owen Nolan is questionable. He didn't practice today, and although Richards made it sound like this isn't major, he definitely wasn't concrete in the fact that Nolan will play.
Brent Burns didn't practice, but he skated afterward.
It's been a fun trip thus far. Sat next to a rabid hockey fan on the flight yesterday -- a rabid Blackhawks fan -- and definitely one of the most knowledgeable hockey fans I've ever met, which is a testament to Yahoo's Puck Daddy. This DePaul grad student and Hawks season-ticket holder seems to get all his news and hockey entertainment from that great hockey blog.
On a whim, wound up watching last night's Blackhawks-Ducks game, and what an atmosphere in the electric United Center. Total domination from the home team, and I was amazed I was watching the same Ducks team I saw in person only six nights earlier in Anaheim. Competitive first period, but the Blackhawks rolled from there.
Great game by Minnesotan Dustin Byfuglien -- assist, fight seconds in, broke up what could have been a momentum-turning 2-on-1 by reverting to his days as a defenseman.
Marian Hossa ended a long goal drought with two just in time for the Wild to visit. If Chicago plays like last night , it's going to take a lot of effort to dismantle the Blackhawks for the sliding Wild. Maybe the motivation from a bunch of dads and mentors can help out.
After the game, I met a family of four from Omaha, Nebraska. The parents brought their Kansas U daughter to Chicago to shop and their KU son to Chicago to see his first-ever NHL game. He's a massive Pittsburgh Penguins fan, so he's well aware of Chuck Fletcher, Todd Richards and Petr Sykora. Because he lives in Omaha, he's also a fan of Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais, who's guided the U.S. junior team into the world junior championship vs. Canada on Tuesday night, and Omaha Lancers Erik Haula and Anthony Hamburg, the two Wild prospects there. Haula, a future Gopher, is second on the team with 42 points and Hamburg's got a dozen last I looked.
I convinced the family to check out the Wild vs. Edmonton game during their kids' spring break in March (the ladies want to check out Mall of America), so I expect a commission from both the Wild and MOA.
Back to world juniors, Wild prospect Marco Scandella had a shorthanded goal and an assist for Canada in a 6-1 win over Switzerland last night to advance to the Final vs. the U.S. Scandella was named Player of the Game. If you didn't see, I wrote a Scandella feature on Dec. 26, so you can check that out on the startribune.com search section.
Blackhawks took the day off today. The Bulls play Oklahoma City tonight, and before practice, Clutterbuck, Harding and John Scott shot hoops on the Bulls court. A lot of airball three's, I was told.
OK, a lot of transcribing to do, then a lot of writing. Good day.