Clothes were stuffed in the drawers of the dresser and more were dangling on hangers inside the closet, but I didn’t need to audition all the possible combinations.

I knew the look I wanted to create.




So I completed the turtleneck-pants duo that was popular in the ’90s, even for an 8-year-old, with a blue cardigan sweater.

Now I was ready to go to my first NHL game.

Before arriving in Edmonton from the suburbs to watch the Oilers host the Blues, my sense of anticipation was akin to waiting to walk across the stage at graduation.

I had studied hockey for years, learning the rules, history and strategy. And I had practiced the tenets, prescribing to the sacredness of loyalty and basking in the camaraderie of the sport from the other side of the television set.

But now, I could continue my education in person — alongside other students and in the most important classroom of them all.

And the evening’s lesson didn’t disappoint.

Actually, it was perfect because I watched the game with my dad, Dwayne.

My dad was my sidekick growing up, the accomplice in most of my memories.

When I pored over my math homework, his head was buried in the textbook, too. At soccer games, he stood along the sideline near the corner my team attacked and offered encouragement.

In between school and soccer, we focused on hockey — even after we moved from Canada to Arizona.

He was the one who taught me the game, and from those early chats in the living room, with him on the couch and me stationed on the carpet in front of the TV, I adopted his allegiance.

Hockey became our language; it’s how we filled silence in car rides, analyzing the previous game and individual performances, but it also became a tool he’d use to pass along life lessons about chasing my dreams, handling adversity and believing in myself.

I never wanted these talks to end and would scour newspaper articles for new information to add to our next discussion. I’d bring back trade rumors and trends, mixing in my own insight, and he cared about what I had to say. He genuinely wanted to hear what I thought, and that was the best feeling ever.

Not until years later did I realize that by sharing his love for the game with me my dad was helping me realize my own passion in life — covering hockey.

And that’s why I’m so excited to be the new Wild beat writer for the Star Tribune.

Hockey isn’t an assignment to me, a designation at the end of a business card.

It’s who I am, what I love.

It’s my dad.

So I made it my career.

I graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and chronicled the Coyotes for five years at the Arizona Republic before making this move to Minnesota, and I’m eager to write about the Wild — like how goalie Devan Dubnyk responds after having his impressive shutout streak nixed, what impact winger Zach Parise’s eventual return will have on the team and whether this season’s version can finally find a way to translate regular-season success into playoff prowess.

But there are other stories, too, about what makes each player unique as a person — because hockey isn’t just power plays, defensive pairings and goals-against averages. It’s that feeling when the goal horn sounds and the motivation behind a 5 a.m. practice. And it’s a bond between father and daughter.

My dad and I still talk hockey on a daily basis, and I cherish these chats even more now because of the effect they’ve had on my life.

But the conversation is about to change.

It’s going to start to include you, the State of Hockey.

And I can’t wait.

Sarah McLellan’s debut as the Wild beat writer begins in the Sunday Star Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @sarah__mclellan