Yeo dives into new job on cross-country drive

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2011 - 1:12 AM

The multitasking Wild coach left Houston with a lot on his plate, wasting no time calling his players and mapping out summer plans.

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Mike Yeo

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Less than 48 hours after officially being introduced to the Minnesota hockey faithful, the Wild's new coach, his golden retriever, Berkley, and a car full of boxes began a two-day drive from Houston to Pittsburgh.

Mike Yeo's family already was in Pittsburgh, where his children were attending a hockey camp. So as Yeo motored across the Texas-Louisiana border Sunday morning, he began dialing the phone.

The first call was to his father, Wayne, to wish him a Happy Father's Day. It was a much calmer conversation than Thursday's when Yeo called to let him know the good news.

"My dad was very quiet," Yeo said. "You could tell he was very proud, but almost a little speechless. He didn't seem to know what to say."

Wayne's reaction was quite the contrast to Yeo's brother, Paul, who reacted in a way "you wouldn't be able to repeat."

Yeo's been flooded with calls and texts of congratulations, including from Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, with whom Yeo worked closely for five seasons as Pittsburgh's assistant coach.

"He texted me right after it was tweeted, saying, 'Is it true?' " Yeo said. "I didn't get a chance to get back to him, so the next day after it was official he texted me again. I said, 'Thank you. When are you a free agent again?' He liked that one."

For the record, Yeo was completely, utterly, absolutely, 100 percent joking with Crosby.

Yeo's next couple of weeks will be to map out a plan. There's a lot to do.

He wants to watch video, prepare for the July development camp, format training camp to the very last drill and begin to study the soon-to-be released schedule to organize travel.

"I want it to be a different culture when guys come," Yeo said. "I definitely want to make changes to the dressing room and start thinking of words you want to use and quotes you want up to help get the message across and build the culture you want."

With two days in the car, Yeo said, "It's a perfect time for me to start calling players. I want to get to know them more than anything else, but to let them know what I'm about."

Regardless if Andrew Brunette will be re-signed or not, Yeo especially wants to speak to the potential unrestricted free agent. They have known each other for a while and have homes near each other in Ontario, and Yeo knows Brunette "has a good feel for the team and the room."

Yeo also has a letter to send each player that "has a message to it: To let them know what to expect, but more importantly, what we should be expecting from ourselves."

Yeo said the Wild already has been flooded with interest for the one assistant coaching vacancy, maybe two. Yeo will meet this week with assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, whose contract expires June 30.

It would be surprising though if Aeros assistant coach Darryl Sydor, a two-time Stanley Cup winner who played 18 years in the NHL, doesn't accompany Yeo to Minnesota.

Aeros GM Jim Mill says he will search "for the next star" to replace Yeo in Houston. Two potential candidates could include Montreal assistant coach Kirk Muller and John Torchetti, who has held several NHL and minor-league coaching positions.

Yeo is raring to get started. If things go as smoothly as his first news conference, the Wild should be in good hands.

It was extraordinary how poise and confidence seemed to come so naturally. It was first noticeable when he opened up a piece of paper. There was no speech -- just bullet points.

"I was very nervous in the morning before I got to the rink when I thought, 'Holy cow, I'm an NHL coach in this incredible market that loves its hockey,'" Yeo said. "But for whatever reason, when I got to the rink, and talked to [GM Chuck Fletcher] and the PR people, I felt a lot more at ease."

In the first 24 hours after being named coach, Yeo flew back to Houston, did a dozen radio interviews, packed up his entire house with wife, Tanya, and drove out of town for the last time.

"I said to my wife, 'Honest to God, that phone call from Chuck feels like it was four days ago,' " Yeo said, laughing.

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