Reusse: Leddy trade to Blackhawks remains a sore spot to fans

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2013 - 12:09 PM

Defenseman Nick Leddy had a strong sophomore season at Eden Prairie High School in 2006-07 and the lobbying started.

The recruiters for USA Hockey's developmental teams said it would be in Leddy's best interest to join that program in Ann Arbor, Mich. A year later, J.P. Parise, the new man in charge of the Des Moines Buccaneers, tried to get Leddy to play his senior year of high school in the USHL.

"Nick listened to what everyone had to say," said Mike Leddy, his father, "but what he really wanted was to stay at Eden Prairie with his hockey buddies and try to win a state title."

Leddy and his buddies did bring the first hockey title to Eden Prairie in 2009. And staying in high school did not damage his status for the NHL draft that June.

"The Wild's old regime had been getting heat for mostly ignoring Minnesotans," Mike Leddy said. "Out of the blue, Tommy Thompson called and invited himself to three dinners: with our family, with Jordan Schroeder's family, and with Zach Budish's family.

"That sure made it look like the Wild was going to take a Minnesotan, to me anyway."

Thompson was brought to the Wild as assistant general manager to Doug Risebrough, leader of the old regime that balked at Minnesotans and college players. Risebrough was fired in April 2009 and Thompson lasted one more year with Chuck Fletcher, the new GM.

Fletcher and Thompson had the choice of Leddy, Schroeder, Budish or numerous others with the 16th overall pick in the '09 draft. They went with Leddy.

"We were in Montreal for the draft ... Nick's mother [Vicki] and me and other Leddys," Mike said. "The Wild was our team, so it was an amazing moment when Nick was announced as the choice."

Mike paused, smiled and said: "The Wild is still my second- favorite team."

On Wednesday evening, Mike was sitting upstairs at Patrick McGovern's on St. Paul's beverage, food and hockey avenue. He was wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey No. 8 with the name Leddy on the back.

This was a couple of hours before the Wild and the Blackhawks would meet for the first of three games in this shortened NHL season.

Mike's jersey was a reminder of what occurred during the second semester of Leddy's freshman year at the University of Minnesota. On Feb. 12, 2010, the Wild traded Leddy and veteran Kim Johnsson to Chicago for defenseman Cam Barker.

Why was Leddy traded rather than another young defensemen in the Wild system? "I was told it was because he was the one the Blackhawks wanted," Mike said.

Leddy's freshman season of 2009-10 was a crummy one for the Gophers as a whole. They didn't reach the WCHA Final Five.

Leddy planned to return as a sophomore ... until he went to the Blackhawks prospects camp in July, impressed everyone, and Chicago made an acceptable offer to him to turn pro.

Meantime, Barker turned out to skate with the grace of Harold Snepsts. Wild fans turned on him early and often.

As we approach the third anniversary of the trade, reporters charged with covering the Wild know this: If they write with any enthusiasm about what Fletcher has done to find young talent with the Wild, there will be immediate fan feedback complaining over the Leddy trade.

There is a crazed hockey cult in this state -- and the fanaticism escalates in support of Minnesota-produced players. Heck, if the 1980 U.S. Olympic team had beaten the Big Red Machine with a coach from Massachusetts and a roster with one or two Minnesotans, we might not even have noticed out here in the provincial land of Minnesota.

And here was a trade of Minnesota Mr. Hockey for a guy who couldn't skate? Until the Wild wins a Stanley Cup, Fletcher will be hearing about that one.

Leddy and the Blackhawks were 6-0 entering Wednesday's game. The sixth victory came Sunday on Nick's overtime goal.

"That was an unbelievable thrill," Leddy said in the visitors' locker room.

There was no such thrill Wednesday. The Wild won 3-2 in a shootout.

"The fans in Chicago have been fired up with our good start," Leddy said. "Hopefully, we'll get back on another streak. We have a very good team in a great city. I love it."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. •

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