Memories of Ottawa still smolder for Wild

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 7:52 AM

Last time the Wild was in Ottawa, its equipment burned.

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Burned skates from the Wild's equipment fire the last time the team played at Ottawa.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The Wild left Long Island for Ottawa on Monday afternoon, meaning Canada's capital had better prepare for the return of the Wild.

"I called the truck driver and told him, 'We won't need a torch in the truck for this pickup, so leave it at the rink,'" equipment manager Tony DaCosta kidded.

The last time the Wild visited Ottawa, the majority of its hockey equipment incinerated in a truck fire.

"I'm trying to forget about it. My therapist told me not to think about it again or talk about it," DaCosta said, smirking. "We can laugh about it now, but it wasn't funny at the time."

After practice on Dec. 18, 2009, Wild trainers packed an equipment truck at the Kanata, Ontario, practice facility for a short drive back to Scotiabank Place. When the trainers reversed the truck into the parking lot, they discovered the back engulfed.

"As an equipment manager, that would be your worst nightmare," DaCosta said. "I've seen where you can lose a bag and make that work. But you lose the whole team, or 95 percent of it, when you think back, it's amazing we actually played the game and the league made us play the game."

Months before, Wild assistant General Manager Brent Flahr's last act as the Senators director of hockey operations was to approve the purchase of a new equipment truck.

On the day of the fire, Flahr landed in Vancouver.

"I turn my Blackberry on, and I had like a stream of 50 e-mails and missed calls," Flahr said, laughing. "I was like ... 'What the heck happened?'"

As players were having lunch, they received text messages, "Equipment truck on fire. Everybody back to hotel for meeting," defenseman Nick Schultz said.

"We had to piece together what survived," said Schultz, who hurried to a local sporting goods store to buy shoulder pads. "I thought for sure we weren't playing."

But former Wild assistant equipment manager Brent Proulx rushed back to Minnesota, where assistant equipment manager Matt Benz already was hard at work piecing together all the extra equipment he could find.

By the time players got to the morning skate, each stall was full of gear as if nothing happened.

The Wild, 10-1-2 in its previous 13 games and the hottest team in the West at the time, lost in a lifeless performance.

"It's remarkable our trainers got it together," said Schultz, before adding with a big laugh, "but seriously. Can you imagine? Like your only job is to make sure the equipment doesn't catch in flames, and it does."

DaCosta chuckled.

"It's something I still say every team should go through. It builds character," DaCosta said sarcastically. "I just told Backy [goalie Niklas Backstrom], 'You've got the option to take your bag in Ottawa to the hotel.'"

The return

Dany Heatley returns to Ottawa for the second time since demanding a trade in 2009. During his first return last December, fans threw his jerseys onto the ice.

Heatley doesn't think that will happen again. Not because he's any more liked, but because, "Hopefully they threw them all out."

"I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to it, but I know what to expect. Once you get on the ice, it's no big deal," Heatley said.

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