We have summer hockey, folks! And I'm not talking about Da Beauty League at Braemar Arena in Edina.
The IIHF world junior championships normally take place during the Christmas-New Year's holiday season. So hockey fans are forced to divide their attention between their favorite NHL team and its top prospects who take part in the event.
That's not the case this year. The world juniors, this time held in Canada, were postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. The event was moved to this month. Games began on Monday, and Wild fans should be stoked.
For instance, if you tuned in Thursday night, you would have seen Team USA throttle Switzerland 7-1. You also would have seen former Gophers defender Brock Faber actually score a goal.
Faber scored twice all last season for the Gophers, so it's a rare event when he finds the net. But Faber, who was dealt to the Wild as part of the Kevin Fiala deal in June, put Team USA ahead 2-1 with a wrister from just inside the blue line, a fabulous effort.
And this isn't just a Faber watch. There are Wild prospects sprinkled on several teams in this year's World Juniors. With the games in Canada, local Wild fans can tune in to afternoon and primetime games to check on their progress.
Defenseman Jack Peart, the Wild's second round pick in 2021, joins Faber. Peart, from Grand Rapids, wasn't on the original team slated for the tournament in December but played his way onto this squad.
Canada has defenseman Carson Lambos, the Wild's first round pick in 2021, and defenseman Ryan O'Rourke, a bruiser drafted in the second round in 2020. A third Wild prospect, defenseman Daemon Hunt, was a late injury scratch.
Wild General Manager Bill Guerin can tune into the NHL Network every night to watch a game that has a good chance of including one of his prospects. Wild goaltender of the future Jesper Wallstedt is between the pipes for Sweden. Defenseman David Spacek was born in Columbus, Ohio — he's the son of former NHLer Jaroslav Spacek — but plays for Czechia. And the Wild's first two picks in this year's draft — winger Liam Ohgren and center Servac Petrovsky — play for Sweden and Slovakia, respectively. Petrovsky had a goal and an assist on Tuesday against Czechia.
The world juniors will likely return to the holidays later this year. There was determination to play the 2021-22 tournament, but it puts prospects in danger of getting injured just a few weeks before training camp opens. This probably will be an outlier.
So enjoy it while it lasts. Fire up the grill. Head for the lake. Enjoy the rest of summer. By watching hockey.
An intrepid reporter, several months ago, inquired about the availability of Gophers running back Mo Ibrahim. He was told Ibrahim had gone into "Black Mamba Mode" as he recovered from a ruptured Achilles' tendon suffered in last season's opener against Ohio State.
Ibrahim, now cleared to play, studied pro athletes who have suffered similar injuries and how they recovered. The late Kobe Bryant, nicknamed the Black Mamba, ruptured his Achilles' in 2013. Ibrahim drew from his experience.
"I started doing my research on what he did, how he came back," Ibrahim said. "There's a little documentary ["Kobe Bryant's Muse"] where he talks about the injury and all the things he had to go through.
"And it just motivated me because I always looked up to Kobe."
An inspired Ibrahim is back on the field, preparing for a season in which he, once again, will be considered one of the top backs in the country.
From second stringer to All-Star MVP
When Tyler Miller went down with an injury in 2020, Dayne St. Clair, who was 22 years old at the time and looked even younger, was pressed into service as Minnesota United's goalkeeper.
Who knew then that he was fast-tracking his way to being the Loons' No. 1 goalkeeper and MVP of the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday in front of his home fans at Allianz Field?
But that's what he's done, as he entered the game around the 32nd minute of the first half and helped keep the Liga MX All-Stars out of the goal. That included a diving stop to his left on a header by Juan Dinenno. St. Clair has a 1.45 goals-against average and has a long career ahead of him. He also has an MVP trophy.
"I've got to find a spot for it, for sure," St. Clair said. "Probably on a ledge somewhere to remind me of what I'm capable of."
Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco entered Saturday batting only .234, but that is not going to last. Look for Polanco, a career .302 hitter in August, to be an offensive force in the coming weeks.
Lewis Cine currently is listed behind Cam Bynum on the Vikings depth chart at safety. Expect Cine to overtake Bynum and become a seek-and-destroy complement to savvy veteran Harrison Smith.