Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Fun night of hockey as Army rallies; Ryan Suter's second thoughts about Craig Leipold comments

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: October 28, 2012 - 9:37 PM

Real fun night of hockey here at Mariucci Arena, where 30 locked-out NHLers put on a show for 3,000 hockey-starved fans.

“It’s like back to your old shinny days in the outdoors," Wild defenseman Justin Falk said. "Fun, … and competitive, because guys are getting the itch to play.”

Army, who got a tongue-lashing by KARE-11's Dave Schwartz (I may be exaggerating) after trailing 3-1 in the first intermission, rallied for a 9-7 win over the Air Force, coached by KARE-11's Rena Sarigianopoulos.

Former Wild great Wes Walz and his former linemate Stephane Veilleux each scored two goals, including once each in the shootout to lift the Army. Cal Clutterbuck scored twice, Matt Kassian, Erik Johnson and Ryan Suter once. Kassian's goal was silky smooth breakaway goal, and it came on his birthday.

For the Air Force, Blake Wheeler was awesome with a goal and three assists. His fellow former Gopher Kyle Okposo had a hat trick for "a nice little homecoming." Ryan Carter, Matt Hendricks and Jimmy O'Brien each scored.

In all, the locked-out NHLers raised in Defending the Blue Line Founder Shane Hudella's guesstimation probably $50,000 for the non-profit organization.

"I think the guys can sympathize how much this lockout is affecting an organization like ours," Hudella said.

Just a real cool cause. Jack Jablonski dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff. Military kids met each player at their car and carried their bags to the locker room.

Wild goalie Niklas  Backstrom, who hopefully we see in a Wild sweater someday again, played two periods. He was on the winning end and decided not to attempt a penalty shot like he did in Friday’s “Champs for Charity” game in Chicago because “I want to keep it 1 for 1. I like the sound of that.”

In full pads, Backstrom beat Craig Anderson with a suave shot under the crossbar.
“I was concerned they were going to have a time limit,” Backstrom said, laughing. I didn’t even know what to do. Got lucky."
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr was supposed to be at the game, but his plans had to change because of the storm on the east coast. He is still going to try to come to town Monday to meet with the Minnesota-based players, but by the sounds of the storm, that could be a longshot.
On www.startribune.com/wild on Monday, my story from the paper will appear. There are some lockout quotes in there was Backstrom, Okposo and Zach Parise, who originally came up with the idea of this charity game. By the way, Parise said his last game on the Mariucci ice came with the Fighting Sioux, "and we probably won."


Two days ago at the "Champs for Charity" game in Chicago, Ryan Suter talked with Craig Custance from ESPN the Magazine and took some swipes at the owners, including Wild owner Craig Leipold.

The story can be found at this link.

In the story, Suter questioned whether Leipold negotiated the 13-year, $98 million contracts given to him and Zach Parise in good faith (in other words, knowing that the NHL would be asking for a rollback in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Suter said in Custance's story: "It's disappointing. If you can't afford to (sign contracts) then you shouldn't do it. (Leipold) signed us to contracts. At the time he said everything was fine. Yeah, it's disappointing. A couple months before, everything is fine, and now they want to take money out of our contracts that we already signed."

Tonight, prior to the Defending the Blue Line charity game here at Mariucci, I interviewed Suter. He said after thinking about the things he said, he wanted to make clear he doesn't think Leipold negotiated the contracts in bad faith and that he's just frustrated because he wants to be playing.

Here's a piece of the interview:

“I thought a lot about since what I said, I don’t question Craig Leipold and Minnesota with regards to negotiating our contracts in good faith. I don’t question that. That might have came off wrong. I don’t question that. It’s just frustrating. We just want to play. We support Don in what he’s doing. Obviously you sign a contract, and you want to hold true to that. I think, and I hope, everything works out.” 

Do you feel that in the back of Leipold’s mind, he figured you’d take a haircut: “No, I honestly don’t feel that. It’s easy to think that or it might come off like that, but honestly, I know they’re good people. And I know they wouldn’t negotiate thinking, ‘OK, let’s give them this because it’ll end up being this.’ Because that’s not the kind of the people they are. So that came off wrong [in Suter’s original comments to ESPN the Magazine].”
Because the counter to this is you and Zach received lockout-protected $10 million signing bonuses for a reason. You had to know there was a risk of a lockout? “Yeah. Yeah. There definitely was. Whenever the CBA’s up, after last time what happened, we wanted to protect ourselves, so yeah, there was risk. We both knew that. Just moving forward, I don’t want to get into a battle about that. I don’t want to be a posterboy. I’m just trying to be honest with you. I don’t question Craig. I don’t feel like it was negotiated unfaithfully or untruthfully.”
Do you look at this as business. Do you think at the end of the day, you – actually all players – when this lockout ends will just be able to go back into the locker rooms, let bygones be bygones and not let there be bad blood or mistrust with the owners? “Yeah. The main thing is we just love playing hockey, so we’re frustrated right now. I don’t see it being a problem once this is over. Don is doing a great job for the players and we stand behind him. They’re negotiating and we’re sitting back waiting for it to get done so we can play.”


Team Irvin 19 3rd Qtr
Team Carter 20
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 77 4th Qtr
Golden State 89
Washington 83 4th Qtr 11:44
Denver 84
Houston 14 1st Qtr 5:47
LA Lakers 6
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 38 2nd Half 13:20
Utah 51
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
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Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 63 2nd Half 3:46
USC 52
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