Only a few Wild players lingered near the end of Monday's morning skate, which gave Darby Hendrickson time to do his thing.
And Darby doing his thing meant a longer wait than anticipated for the best version of Hendrickson to appear for an interview. About 45 minutes following the end of practice, Hendrickson emerged from his own workout, sweating and ripped. He's 51 years old and still looks like he has a few shifts in him.
"He does look like he can still play," new Wild coach John Hynes said. "Maybe because he takes saunas every day. He's kept himself in good shape, that's for sure."
Hendrickson is a workout fiend and will hit the sauna at the Wild's facilities and at his home in Minnetonka, where he has a wood-burning sauna that reaches 200 degrees. Sounds like heaven.
"I love sauna," Hendrickson said. "I know people joke with me, but I'm in the sauna every day."
He toggles between the sauna and a cold tub to help his muscles recover from workouts. And he takes a cold shower in the morning. That's discipline.
Hendrickson is built to survive. And he's survived more than just his playing career, which included Mr. Hockey out of Richfield High School, starring at the University of Minnesota and then a 10-year NHL career with parts of four seasons with the Wild.
Hendrickson was a member of that inaugural Wild team of 2000-01, led by Jacques Lemaire. A few years after his playing days were over, he became a Wild coach in 2010 under Todd Richards, who replaced Lemaire. He's been here ever since.
That means Hendrickson has survived the regimes of Richards, Mike Yeo, John Torchetti, Bruce Boudreau and, most recently, Dean Evason. He's made a career out of adapting. He began with the Wild in a part-time role before telling then-General Manager Chuck Fletcher he wanted to move into a full-time role. He was the "eye in the sky" coach for a few years, analyzing the team from the press box. Now he's on the bench helping the head coach — no matter his name.
"Hey, you're not going to write about all of this, are you?" Hendrickson said with a laugh. "I'm trying to stay in the down low. I've been very, very fortunate."
It's hard to stay in the shadows when there are few like Hendrickson. Now in his 14th season, Hendrickson is one of the longest-tenured associate/assistant head coaches in the NHL. Benoit Allaire has been the Rangers goaltending coach for 19 years; other coaches have had multiple stints with the same club that total longer than 14 years.
The skeptical Minnesota sports fan might be thinking "Darby's the problem!" given the Wild's inability to go on a meaningful postseason run through the years. On the contrary, Hendrickson has been a solution, maintaining good relationships with players who use him as a sounding board while also being a resource for head coaches.
He's also been a sponge.
Richards was a strong communicator. Yeo and Torchetti were detail-oriented. Boudreau was authentic and told the best stories on road trips. Evason encouraged collaboration and allowed Hendrickson to have a voice. And Hendrickson has learned there's more than one way to push the right button. Consequently, he has value because of his institutional knowledge and experience with different coaches.
When Hynes was hired nearly two weeks ago, he approached Hendrickson and asked for his help.
"Darby has been great," Hynes said. "He's such a quality guy. A smart hockey guy. He knows the ins and outs of the organization really well — and, obviously, Minnesota. He knows everything about it. He knows so many people, which is helpful. So it's been nice to get to know him and work with him."
By now, Hendrickson should be thinking about advancing his career, but that would entail him getting a head coaching gig in American Hockey League to prove he can run a team. He likes the view he has. He enjoys being an assistant for the hometown team, building relationships with players and supporting Hynes.
"I just believe in staying in your own lane," Hendrickson said. "I try to be the best I can be in my lane."
Besides, he knows there's a sauna, somewhere, waiting for him at the end of the day.