Souhan: Leipold happy to spend $200M in one hour

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2012 - 3:48 PM

Having spent almost $200 million in about an hour, making him the Minnesota version of Pacman Jones, Wild owner Craig Leipold realized he would have to take on one more expense.

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At the Hockey Lodge store at Xcel Energy Center, store manager Bill Berg put a Parise jersey over Grandlund's on a store mannequin.

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Having spent almost $200 million in about an hour, making him the Minnesota version of Pacman Jones, Wild owner Craig Leipold realized he would have to take on one more expense.

''I'm probably going to have to put a two-way mirror around my suite,'' he said. ''So people can't look in and watch me going crazy.''

On Wednesday, Leipold became the Alpha Male of Minnesota sports owners, funding the signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts worth $98 million each. He wrote a check for $20 million to cover their signing bonuses, then made plans to bring a very special bottle of wine to a friend's house for a celebratory dinner.

Parise alone would have become the most stunning and lucrative free-agent acquisition in Twin Cities history. Beating elite franchises New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Detroit in the chase for Parise and Suter made this the most important day in franchise history.

Speaking from his office in Racine, Wis., Leipold called himself a ''madman.'' He also revealed how unpredictable the pursuit became.

''We're all so worn out,'' he said. ''At the end, we felt like everything was coming together. Ryan and Zach were communicating with each other and were almost in control of the whole process, and it was at that point you really felt like this was going to happen.

''That was the high point. Monday night was the low point. We weren't making enough progress with either side, and we weren't hearing or getting enough information that was encouraging. Then you look at the blogs and people are saying they saw Zach in Pittsburgh, or Detroit is flying in to see Ryan, and you feel like, 'Oh, boy, we worked so hard and we planned so much and we have such a good story to tell and we're not going to get either one of them.'

''Then, 24 hours later it's the opposite.''

You could say Leipold wears his emotions on his sleeves, but he would rather rip off his sleeves and twirl them like rally towels. Wednesday, on his best day as an NHL owner, he found himself alone in his office in Racine, as his family spent the day at the cabin in northern Wisconsin and the team offices in St. Paul became the focus of the NHL and the Twin Cities.

''I'm kicking myself,'' he said. ''I should be in St. Paul. I woke up at 6:30 today and called [GM] Chuck Fletcher, and he already had 10 people in his office.

''In the ticket office, our phones are ringing off the hook. We had eight people come in today at 12, not knowing what would happen. Now we get both players and we've brought in everybody on the payroll. We have hundreds and hundreds of season tickets sold. It's an amazing day, and I'm sitting here, just me and my dog.''

Leipold said he's certain that other teams offered each player more money. He acknowledged that several other teams offered better pedigrees. So how did he and Fletcher woo two star players?

''It was Minnesota,'' he said. ''It was the Midwest. I'm not trying to get corny here, but it was the 'State of Hockey.' It was our future, and the young players we have coming into our system, plus our core with Mikko Koivu and our other players, and the Minnesota market.

''They're not just coming here because it's Minnesota. They're coming here to win in Minnesota.

''This was an opportunity that you don't get presented to you very often. This was our time, as Herb Brooks would say. This is our time.''

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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