Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Matt Cooke gets blessing of Boogaards to wear 24; Wild development camp tidbits

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 9, 2013 - 12:23 PM
If you didn’t catch my interview on KFAN on Monday morning with Wild free-agent pickup Matt Cooke, check out this link.
 
In my opinion, the best part of the interview came at the end when I asked about his number, 24. That number holds a special place in the hearts of many Wild fans because it was the number worn by the late Derek Boogaard. It’s also the number Cooke has worn his entire nearly 1,000-game NHL career.
 
“The team told me they’re OK with me wearing it because Marty [Havlat] wore it after [Boogaard],” Cooke told me. “I don’t really feel comfortable putting it on without his mum and dad’s blessing. I’ve sent emails off to them. I want to let them know that by putting it on I’m absolutely not doing anything disrespectful. It’s been my only number in the NHL, but at the end of the day, I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt. I don’t want anyone to think that I am being disrespectful and I want to make sure I take care of that before I even entertain the thought of putting it on.”
 
Cooke received that blessing from Joanne and Len Boogaard this morning and will indeed wear No. 24 with the Wild.
 
Derek’s dad, Len, forwarded Cooke’s email to siblings Krysten, Aaron and Ryan.
 
“I read the e-mail and I greatly respect Matt for what he said in it,” brother Ryan Boogaard told me in an email. “I texted my dad and told him I have no issues with it. I’m very impressed with Matt for what he did by reaching out to my parents.  He didn't have to do it as he could have just worn #24, but he thought of Derek and our family before doing so. I knew that someone would eventually wear #24 and I was not expecting them to reach out to us, so when Matt did, I could not have been happier.”
 
Like I said, check out the interview. It was a pretty honest one in which Cooke talked about his past mistakes on the ice and what he’s done to try to change (hours of video). The stats support his claim:
 
According to research, he has been suspended six times for a total of 25 regular-season games and seven playoff games. The most severe was the 10 games plus the first round of the playoffs (seven-game series loss to Tampa Bay) suspension he received March 20, 2011, for elbowing the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh.
 
He has been fined four times for the max $2,500 each time, but his last fine or suspension was for that McDonagh elbow.
 
Last season, he had 36 penalty minutes, tied for 118th in the NHL with guys like Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. In 2011-12, he was tied for 216th in the NHL with 44 penalty minutes.
 
He has played every game the past two seasons. Other than one 10-minute misconduct, he hasn’t had anything but a minor penalty the past two seasons. * I've been reminded, this is regular season. He got a checking from behind against the Bruins in the playoffs. 

He said he is “committed to the process that I’ve started and ensuring I’m not suspended moving forward,” Cooke said.
 
I’ve gotten tons of endorsements from the Penguins and Canucks beat writers that there’s more to the Cookie Monster than meets the eye.
 
One of my guests while filling in for Paul Allen on KFAN yesterday was the great Greg Wyshynski, the Puck Daddy himself from the terrific Yahoo! Sports blog. Here’s Wysh on Cooke, saying his days of being a headhunter are long gone: “Some national media and especially NBC and especially Mike Milbury have been living in the past on Matt Cooke. Like Matt Cooke is not that guy. Matt Cooke is no longer the guy who took off [Marc] Savard’s head, who hit McDonagh from behind, who was injurious and nearly played himself out of the National Hockey League because of that play. He had a lot of personal issues that year, he solved them or at least worked through them. Go on NHL.com and see how many major penalties this guy’s taken in the last two years (none). You’ll be stunned because it’s like nothing. He’s not that player anymore. He’s a serviceable guy. Does he play on the edge? Yeah, of course he plays on the edge much like [Cal] Clutterbuck did. But he’s no longer the headhunter, he’s no longer the guy that you don’t think should be in the National Hockey League because he can’t behave himself. He’s a good contributor to a team. In the last two seasons under this Brendan Shanahan Department of Player Safety stuff, I think he’s earned the right to at least get a chance without being crucified by fans and media in Minnesota without having seen him play all that much with Pittsburgh in the last two years.”
 
My feeling: Wild fans should give the guy a chance, and this is coming from someone who has been critical of Cooke and his game often. We'll all get to judge him for what we see in front of us on the ice. This isn’t an exact parallel to when the Wild traded for Chris Simon in 2008. If I remember correctly, the big upheaval over that trade was mostly the fact that it was the only trade-deadline move for a team that looked primed to go a long way in the playoffs. In the end, that Wild team did end up winning its only division championship but bowed out in six games to Jose Theodore, Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche.
 
Cooke will be introduced to the Minnesota media during a press gathering Wednesday afternoon.
 
--Yesterday, development camp officially started with a team meeting and dinner/beach volleyball tourney at Lord Fletcher’s in Minnetonka.
 
The group of prospects will be on the ice for the first time this afternoon. For the development camp roster, see this link.
 
A total of 36 players are scheduled to attend the Wild’s 2013 Development Camp, including 20 selected by Minnesota in the NHL Entry Draft. Players scheduled to attend include: Brett Bulmer, Raphael Bussieres, Mathew Dumba, Tyler Graovac, Johan Gustafsson, Erik Haula and Zack Phillips, along with all seven players selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
 
Mario Lucia is the lone top prospect not attending. He has exams at Notre Dame.

This year’s Development Camp will feature a three-on-three tournament that will be free and open to the public. Fans can watch the tournament at Xcel Energy Center from 3:30 to 4:45 pm on Thursday, July 11, from 2:45 to 4 p.m. on Friday, July 12 and from 2:45 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 13. Gate 1 will open 30 minutes before the start of each session.
 
Some things I’ll be watching for:
 
-- Haula. When I had Chuck Fletcher on KFAN on Monday (listen to link), he mentioned a few times Erik Haula’s name as a player vying for a roster spot with Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, maybe as second-line center next season.
 
-- Bulmer. Brett Bulmer had a tough first full year pro last year. I want to see how he looks.
 
-- Kurtis Gabriel. He was a third-round pick in late June. Hard-hitting, older prospect. Already 20 years old, so in main training camp in September, the Wild will make a determination as to whether to send him to AHL Iowa or return him to OHL Owen Sound, where he can be a big fish in his overage year.
 
-- Daniel Gunnarsson, a 6-foot-5 21-year-old defenseman taken in the fifth round in 2012. The Wild believe wholeheartedly in the kid, but we don’t know anything about him because he still plays in Sweden. He has one more year on his contract with Lulea. Same thing with 19-year-old center Christoph Bertschy, a sixth-rounder in 2012. He also has one more year left in Switzerland.
 
-- Also, I want to really eye 2012ers Raphael Bussieres, who will be turning pro in Iowa this year, Michigan State’s John Draeger (local guy) and another guy I know the Wild believes has a bright future, Boston College forward Adam Gilmour. Tyler Graovac, who burst onto the OHL scene last year, is also turning pro this year in Iowa. He’s a 2011 seventh-rounder.
 
-- Wild is expected to hire a coach in Iowa in the next week or so.
 
-- The NHL can’t release the schedule until after the Olympics are official. I hear the date they’re eyeing is the day after the baseball All-Star Game as a release date. We shall see. I know teams need the dates to start selling things like mini-packs and booking TV schedules with their local affiliates.
 

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