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.

Also find Russo on Facebook.

Email Michael to talk about hockey.

Harding's Hope makes donation to National MS Society programs

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news, Wild training camp Updated: September 13, 2014 - 9:08 AM

Harding's Hope, the nonprofit founded by Wild goalie Josh Harding, donated $83,000 today to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter, to help fund direct financial assistance for families affected by MS.

"Thanks to the generosity of donors and partners, Harding’s Hope is proud to announce our first year gift of $83,000 to the MS Society programs," said Harding's Hope advisor Lana Quinn of QuinnMcCauley. "We hope that through this season’s ‘Make the Save’ campaign we can increase that amount for next year.

"Camp opens next week and Josh’s focus returns to the ice, but off ice we will continue to work to raise funds for people living with MS and hope hockey fans everywhere will join us."

“This generous donation will make a tremendous impact in the lives of families struggling to cope with

the financial burden of this lifelong disease,“ said National MS Society, Upper Midwest Chapter President
Holly Anderson. “We extend our deepest gratitude to Harding’s Hope for their dedication to helping
people with MS live their best lives.”

Harding’s Hope raises awareness and funds to support people living with MS. Today, the charity also transitioned to a new web site, www.hardingshope.org.

“On behalf of Harding’s Hope and all those affected by MS, we are thankful to the hundreds of individuals and organizations that contributed this past year to make this donation possible,” Harding said.

The four Society programs chosen for funding include chore services, care partner relief, exercise and wellness, and aids for daily living ― all designed to help people with MS stay strong and independent, and remain in their homes and communities.

I sat down with Harding last week and will be doing an article on him in the next few days. Harding, who led the NHL last season in goals-against average and save percentage, has looked great on the ice the past month and is determined "to show I’m capable of playing a full season."

“I’m excited for this season and I don’t know if I’ve felt this good in my life," he said.

Nino Niederreiter re-signs, agreeing to a 3-year, $8 million contract

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild player moves, Wild training camp Updated: September 11, 2014 - 4:38 PM

Game 7’s overtime hero has re-signed and is ready to pick up where he left off.

One week before players are set to report for training camp, Nino Niederreiter, the young power winger who scored the Western Conference quarterfinals clinching goal last season for the Wild, agreed to terms on a three-year, $8 million contract Thursday.

“I’m glad it’s over and I’m part of the Wild family again,” Niederreiter said by phone from Portland, Ore., where he’s skating with the Western Hockey League Winterhawks and working with his power-skating instructor. “I think it’s all about now. The season’s coming up and I think I found a way to score goals in the league and felt I got better and better as last season went on, so now I’m very happy to focus and not worry about the contract situation.

“Now I just want to go out there and play and really, really work on things.”

The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Niederreiter, 22, scored a career-high 14 goals and 36 points in 81 games last season. He was plus-12, which ranked fourth on the team, and ranked second with 175 hits. In 13 playoffs games, he scored three goals and six points and led the team with 40 hits. In Game 7 of the first round against Colorado, Niederreiter scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, and assisted on Jared Spurgeon’s late third-period, overtime-forcing goal.

“I’m very happy the way the playoffs went,” said Niederreiter, who was also one of Switzerland’s best players in the Olympics. “It’s still tough the way we lost Game 6 [against Chicago], but at the end of the day, we have to look forward. I’m happy I had a chance to perform in the playoffs and now I just have to keep it up going forward here.”

Niederreiter said he will be in Portland until Sunday and plans to be on the ice with his teammates during informal practices Monday. Players report for camp next Thursday and skate for the first time next Friday.

Niederreiter’s agent said earlier this week that Niederreiter turned down a lucrative contract offer to play in Russia. Goalie Darcy Kuemper, the only unsigned Wild player left, is mulling over some potential opportunities in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Earlier this week, Kuemper’s agent said he is asking the Wild for a one-year, one-way contract. The Wild has offered Kuemper a two-year deal, the first year being a two-way, the second being a one-way.

NHL announces rules changes

Posted by: Chris Miller under Wild news Updated: September 11, 2014 - 2:33 PM

The "Spin-o-rama" in shootouts has been outlawed!

The NHL announced a few rules changes this year, and eventually experts will interpret them, criticize them and have officials fired for them, but before that happens, I'll just post them in the quickest way possible so you, the readers, can analyze for yourself.

It's Chris Miller here, subbing for Russo, who has been suspended from any comments about officiating, by me, until the season opener.

Here are the rules changes, from a release by the league:

Rule 1.8 – Rink - Goalkeeper’s Restricted Area

The trapezoid will be expanded by two feet from the goal post on both sides
of the net.

Rule 23 – Game Misconduct Penalties

A new Game Misconduct category will be created. Clipping, charging,
elbowing, interference, kneeing, head-butting and butt-ending move from the
general category into the same category as boarding and checking from
behind (“Physical Fouls”), whereby a player who incurs two such game
misconducts in this category would now be automatically suspended for one
game.

Rule 24 – Penalty Shot

The 'Spin-O-Rama' move, as described in Section 24.2 of the 2013-14 NHL
Rule Book, will no longer be permitted either in Penalty Shot situations or
in the Shootout.

Rule 38 – Video Goal Judge

Video review will be expanded in the following areas:

* Rule 38.4 (viii) has been modified to allow broader discretion to Hockey
Operations to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all
potential goals (e.g., to ensure they are “good hockey goals”).  The
revised Rule will allow Hockey Operations to correct a broader array of
situations where video review clearly establishes that a “goal” or “no
goal” call on the ice has been made in error.   The new expanded rule will
also allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and
potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended
to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck.

* In reviewing “Kicked in Goals,” Hockey Operations will require more
demonstrable video evidence of a “distinct kicking motion” in order to
overrule a “goal” call on the ice, or to uphold a “no goal” call on the
ice.

Rule 57 – Tripping

The rule relating to “Tripping” will be revised to specifically provide
that a two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player
“dives” and trips an attacking player with his body/arm/shoulder,
regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact
with the puck.

But, in situations where a penalty shot might otherwise be appropriate, if
the defending player “dives” and touches the puck first (before the trip),
no penalty shot will be awarded. (In such cases, the resulting penalty will
be limited to a two-minute minor penalty for tripping.)

Rule 64 – Diving / Embellishment

The supplementary discipline penalties associated with Rule 64.3
(Diving/Embellishment) will be revised to bring attention to and more
seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in
an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head
coaches on a graduated scale outlined below.

Incident #    Player Fine(s)    Head Coach Fine(s)
   1    Warning    N/A
   2    $2,000    N/A
   3    $3,000    N/A
   4    $4,000    $2,000
   5    $5,000    $3,000
   6    $5,000    $4,000
   7    $5,000    $5,000
   8    $5,000    $5,000

Rule 76 – Face-offs

To curb delay tactics on face-offs after icing infractions, in situations
where the defending team is guilty of a face-off violation, following an
icing, the defending player who is initially lined up for the face-off will
be given a warning, but will be required to remain in the circle to take
the face-off. A second face-off violation by the defending team in such
situation will result in a two minute minor bench penalty.

Rule 84 – Overtime

* Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime in the regular
season.
* The entire ice surface will undergo a "dry scrape" prior to the start of
overtime in the regular season.
* The procedure requiring the head coach to submit a list of the first
three shooters in the shoot-out has been eliminated.

Rule 85 – Puck Out of Bounds

There have been further rule changes made relating to face-off location to
avoid penalizing teams for plays intended to create bona fide scoring
opportunities.  Specifically, the following are "categories of plays” where
face-offs will remain in the attacking zone despite the fact that the
attacking team was technically responsible for the stoppage in play:  Shots
at the net by a player on the attacking team where:  (i) the shot breaks
the glass; (ii) the shot goes off the side of the net and deflects out of
play; (iii) the shot goes off the dasher boards or glass and deflects out
of play; (iv) the shot is tipped or deflected out of play by a teammate;
and (v) the shot becomes wedged in or on the exterior of the goal net.

                            *    *    *

   In addition, the following rule change will be enacted for the 2014
preseason and may be continued for the 2014/15 regular season if approved
by the League and the NHLPA.

Rule 1.9 – Rink – Face-off Spots and Circles  – Ice Markings/Hash Marks

The hash marks at the end zone circles will be moved from three feet apart
to five feet, seven inches apart (international markings).

 

Bob Suter wake, funeral information

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: September 10, 2014 - 5:39 PM

To honor the life of Bob Suter, there will be a wake at Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin, Friday from 3-7 p.m. Bob's funeral will be held at Alliant Energy Center on Saturday at 11 a.m.

The venue was chosen because there's not a Lutheran church in the area with the capacity to hold the expected number of guests. The public is welcome to the wake and the funeral.

Mark Johnson, Tom Sagissor and son Garrett Suter will eulogize Bob.

Bob Suter, a Wild scout and member of the famed "Miracle on Ice," died Monday in Middleton, Wisconsin, at the age of 57.

Earlier today, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter released the following statement through the team regarding the loss of his dad:

The sudden loss of my father has been difficult for myself and our family - my dad was my hero and he taught me about life, hockey and what was truly important - family. He will be missed greatly and his legacy and spirit will be with us every day. He lived with the motto “it’s all about the kids” and forever he will be remembered by this.
 
My family and I also want to say thank you for the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from the hockey community around the world. It means a lot to us to know how much he was loved and will be missed.

Wild owner Craig Leipold is chartering an aircraft to bring the team -- teammates, coaches, management, staff and family members -- to Bob's funeral, calling it a "no-brainer. It's just a sad time."

Friend and teammate Zach Parise told me today, "It’s the right thing to do. It sounds cliché, but you have your team and you consider that your second family. I’ve known Ryan for a long time, and I’m glad that we’re doing that. Even if we didn’t have a plane, I’ll bet you the whole team would drive. I’m just glad that we’ll be there for Ryan and his family.”

Wild captain Mikko Koivu discusses brother Saku Koivu's retirement

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news, Wild training camp Updated: September 10, 2014 - 2:39 PM

For nine seasons, we have witnessed Koivu vs. Koivu matchups, whether it be Minnesota vs. Montreal or Minnesota vs. Anaheim.

Well, after 18 seasons, Saku Koivu retired from the NHL this morning. He scored 255 goals, 577 assists and 832 points in 1,124 games for the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks. He captained the Canadiens 10 years and won four medals with Finland in the Winter Olympics.

Younger brother Mikko Koivu, the Wild’s all-time leading scorer and captain, skated with the team at its informal skate this morning.

“You’re going to look back and see all the things he did with the Canadiens and the Ducks and the Finnish national team as well, I think he has the respect of each and every team and in each and every town that he played for, from his country, from his teammates and from the staffs,” Koivu said. “He has always been a class act, and I think you’re going to hear that a lot from around the league and around the hockey world.”

If you know Mikko, he never exactly loved playing against his big brother starting with that first game way back in 2005.

“It was always tough,” Mikko Koivu said. “I didn’t really like that going against him and my biggest fear was to face him in the playoffs. I don’t know. It didn’t feel right to go against him. He obviously was a center, too, so I would face him a lot of times and it was a tough situation for both of us, but now looking back, maybe I could have taken it a different way. It was a great experience. For our family, not a lot of people get to do that.”

Saku Koivu had a chance to sign with the Wild a few years back but felt it was Mikko’s team.

“We experienced it with Team Finland and obviously that’s a short period of time,” Mikko Koivu said. “More than anything, he wanted to protect me and give me my time to do my thing here. I think it felt right for him and I respected that. Looking back, I think it was the right call for us.”

By the way, Koivu, 31, who scored 11 goals and 43 assists last season, said his ankle doesn’t affect him anymore. He missed 17 games and the Olympics last year after ankle surgery. He said he trained differently this offseason, although he didn’t want to get into specifics. “I feel good and I feel healthy and I’m excited to get going.”

-- In other Wild news overshadowed yesterday, the Wild announced it will have an ECHL affiliation with the Alaska Aces. The St. Louis Blues will share that affiliation. All its main prospects and minor-leaguers will be with the AHL Iowa Wild still.

Also, the Wild will hold an open practice for fans to watch on Sept. 20 at Xcel Energy Center from 9:30 a.m.-noon. Remember, single-game tickets go on sale that morning at 10 at the arena’s box office.

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT