Push for unity leads Wild Up North for boot camp

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2011 - 12:59 PM

To get to the food and golf, the players have to get past a day with an Army Ranger.

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With the season opener not until Saturday and the exhibition schedule complete, the Wild will be gone from the Twin Cities until Tuesday afternoon for a little team bonding. “It’s a different dress code for this road trip,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press

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Mike Yeo and his Wild players were sporting camouflage "Operation: Urgent Fury" shirts Sunday as they headed into the woods south of Superior, Wis., for a date with former Army Ranger J.B. Spisso.

"It's a different dress code for this road trip," the Wild coach quipped.

With the season opener not until Saturday and the exhibition schedule complete, the Wild will be gone from the Twin Cities until Tuesday afternoon for a little team bonding.

Besides Sunday's physically demanding four-hour mission with Spisso, the Wild is staying at a resort north of Duluth, will have two team dinners, a golf tournament and two practices at Amsoil Arena.

It'll be a little different experience than one year ago when the Wild spent a day naked at a sauna village outside Helsinki.

"Guys are a little disappointed about that, but I'm sure we'll have something else to take its place," joked defenseman Clayton Stoner. "It'll be nice to let loose. This will be our last little bit to enjoy a bit of free time. We have some important work to get done, too, on the ice, but I'm sure it'll be fun right from the bus trip [Sunday] all the way home [Tuesday]."

Yeo ended Sunday's hourlong practice with a loud "Hooah!" to get the Wild ready for Spisso, a vociferous, passionate, no-holds-barred leadership expert.

He consults with several professional teams, including the team Yeo previously worked for, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

When he used to take the Penguins to West Point, players would push Hummers up hills, repel off cliffs and roll over Jeeps. Yeo said Spisso spent a lot of time preparing for Sunday.

Players and coaches were going to be debriefed on several missions needing to be accomplished.

"It'll involve the guys working with each other, doing some hard work and doing some things that will require leadership and teamwork to achieve some difficult challenges," Yeo said. "But the best part of the whole trip I'm sure will be [Sunday night] when the guys are sitting around laughing and joking and talking about what happened."

The name for the mission that Spisso came up with can also describe the Wild's situation: "Urgent Fury." After a 3-0 start to the preseason, the Wild finished 0-3-1 and still needs to master Yeo's system with the season on the horizon.

"We don't have a whole lot of time, so let's take advantage of every minute that we have right now and make sure that everything we do we're doing with a purpose so when they drop the puck on Oct. 8, we're ready to roll."

Yeo said training camp has been a success.

"Nobody expected anybody to come in here and snap our fingers and all of a sudden we were going to be where we wanted to be," Yeo said. "It's a process, and I feel good about where we're going in this process.

"I feel like the guys are really starting to grasp the system. We have more than enough evidence ... when we're doing the right things."

Yeo added: "Their heads are probably spinning right now. The amount of stuff that we've crammed into these guys' melons in the last two weeks, it's not easy for them, especially in such a reactive game, a game where you have to be able to rely on your instincts.

"We have to continue to try to improve and continue to try to grow our game. ... I'm really anxious to see how we come out of this week. ... We've got a great week of practice where we can continue to iron out some of the kinks in our game."

Notes

• Defenseman Mike Lundin will open the season on injured reserve because of back spasms that have caused him to miss most of training camp. "He's going to need some serious practice time and time to get back into shape and game speed," Yeo said.

• Center Matt Cullen and defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who missed the last three exhibition games because of injuries, practiced Sunday for the first time in a week.

• Right winger Cal Clutterbuck (groin) didn't practice, but Yeo hopes he'll be able to practice Monday.

  • OPENING WEEK Thursday: First day of 2011-12 season • Saturday: Wild opener vs. Columbus, 7 p.m. at Xcel (FSN)

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