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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Wild musings: Konopka's rabbit, airmiles this year; Wild live chat on startribune.com Monday

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild training camp Updated: January 13, 2013 - 8:04 PM

Training camp officially began this morning at Xcel Energy Center when 26 players took to the ice with coaches along for the ride.

"It was fun to be out there with them and see how they teach," said new defenseman Ryan Suter.

Good evening and sorry for the very tardy blog.

I left so many questions on the cutting room floor last week, I will be hosting another live chat Monday at noon at www.startribune.com/wild, so please join in and come armed with questions.

I will also be on XM Radio at 8:05 a.m. and in studio with Paul Allen on KFAN (100.3-FM) at 9:20 a.m.

Hopefully you read Sunday's Zach Parise piece here.

I sat down this afternoon with new Wild center and bruiser Zenon Konopka and was writing a lengthy piece on him for Monday's paper.

He is known leaguewide as one of the very best interviews, and the advertising was correct. Funny, thoughtful, analytical and very interesting. I actually left a good amount out of the story for future pieces that Konopka will weigh in on.

Konopka, 31, who has the most penalty minutes in the NHL since 2009-10, owns a piece of seven businesses, including a wine label, ZK28 (zkwines.com). His newest wine is the Wild One in honor of his new team.

He also owns a wine aerator and a grape seed oil business. He's got his hand in several others, including a neck therapy collar, a supplement company, etc.

His main web site is zenonkonopka.com, so check that out, and he is brand new to Twitter, where there's no doubt he'll let everyone see his personality. That is @zenonkonopka.

Oh, and he also has a rabbit named, Hoppy, that you can read more about in Monday's paper.

"In Syracuse [in 2007-08], we had one of the toughest teams of all time in pro hockey," Konopka said. "Really, it was a chapter out of Slap Shot. But I had a party at my house, and all the tough guys like Jon Mirasty and Derek Dorsett and Tom Sestito were all making fun of me, 'Oh, you got a rabbit, what's that about?' Before the end of the night, Mirasty is cuddling with the rabbit and wrestling Dorsett because he wants to pet the rabbit.

"The toughest team in the league by far and these guys just loved that rabbit."

-- As I reported in Sunday's paper, the Houston Aeros are indeed going to charter into Minnesota to scrimmage the Wild on Monday and Wednesday. The players will be integrated into each team.

Wednesday's 7 p.m. scrimmage is free and open to the public, BUT as of now, ticket distribution has been suspended because demand was so high. The Wild is waiting to make sure all its season-ticket holders can get in.

Once that is determined, the Wild may again open tickets to the public. This is your first opportunity to see Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell in Wild sweaters.

The scrimmage will also be televised live on Fox Sports North at 7 p.m. with a pregame show at 6:30 p.m. The scrimmage will also be broadcast live on KFAN.

-- Like I said, please check out the Konopka story, and the notebook talks about the Wild's first day, from Mike Yeo's system work, to Pierre-Marc Bouchard looking good, to Wild's difficult travel this year (according to this blog, the most miles in the NHL) and how Ryan Suter and Zach Parise had trouble breaking old system habits today.

Marco Scandella is expected to get on the ice Monday for a twirl. He is sidelined by a groin injury and a few weeks away from returning.

Practice Monday is at 5 and scrimmage is at 6, so late news Monday. Like I said, please join the noon chat though.

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