Brunette's leap is a no-brainer

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 2, 2011 - 12:33 AM

When the Blackhawks and coach Joel Quenneville called, the Wild winger had the ideal free-agent offer.

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Andrew Brunette

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Andrew Brunette knows Joel Quenneville well.

Word on the street is after the Wild beat the Dallas Stars in last season's finale -- a loss that sent the Blackhawks to the playoffs -- a Bud Light truck pulled up to Brunette's home with a thank-you gift from the Chicago Blackhawks coach.

"That's an urban legend," Brunette, reached in London, said Friday with that thunderous "Bruno" laugh.

Nevertheless, Brunette's familiarity with "Coach Q" from their days in Colorado made signing with the talent-heavy Blackhawks -- one year removed from a Stanley Cup -- that much more a perfect fit for Brunette.

Four teams called -- none of which was the Wild -- as Brunette's up-close-and-personal chance to watch Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon semifinals was destroyed.

"I missed the last of the first set and all of the second!" Brunette screamed.

The Blackhawks dialed Brunette's cell phone the second free agency began Friday, and as happy as the 37-year-old left winger was to land a one-year, $2 million deal with the Hawks, he was sad to see his second stint with the Wild end.

Brunette, who went to the 2003 Western Conference finals with the Wild, returned to Minnesota three years ago with lofty aspirations. He was excited to play again with Marian Gaborik and be coached again by Jacques Lemaire. Instead, both were gone a year later, and Brunette never got to play another playoff game in a Wild sweater.

"I had it all figured when I came back that I'd finish off in a Wild uniform and retire. I wanted to have one more run," Brunette said.

"Coming back, I really believed in the group of guys and the core and what they were doing could lead us to another run, and who knows from there. A lot of things happened in that stretch. Too bad. I really felt we were close. I really did. Kills me that it didn't work out.

"It's very disappointing on my end. I feel responsible in certain ways. I don't know why, but your pride hurts when you come back and this is what happened the last three years."

Brunette ranks third in Wild history with 489 games, second with 119 goals, second with 321 points and second with 55 power-play goals.

"Chicago's so appealing because of the young core of players they have," he said. "I played for Joel, and I really enjoy that brand of hockey. I had some of my best years with him. And whoever I get to play with up front, I'll be pretty fortunate to play with any of those guys.

"I believe they'll be contending for a Stanley Cup, and for me, at this age and not getting there yet, this is exciting."

In the meantime, he's looking forward to Sunday's Wimbledon men's final between Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

"And maybe my phone won't be ringing off the hook," Brunette said, howling. "And maybe it's a five-setter plus, I hope."

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