Jared Spurgeon didn't know what was going to happen when Wild General Manager Bill Guerin stopped by Spurgeon's house Saturday.
Apparently neither did Spurgeon's 6-year-old daughter, Colbie.
She asked Guerin if he was going to fire her dad.
"It eased the tension a little bit right away," said Spurgeon, who was smiling as he recalled the scene Sunday during a video call with Guerin. "So, that was good."
Colbie was spot-on that the reason for Guerin's visit was to discuss a job change. But it wasn't a termination. Spurgeon was getting promoted, to captain, becoming just the second player in Wild history to carry the title full time after Mikko Koivu was in the position from 2009 through last season.
Koivu signed with Columbus after the Wild chose not to bring him back. Before he became the permanent captain, the Wild rotated the captaincy monthly.
"It's a huge honor to me," Spurgeon said. "I'm not going to take it lightly."
After Guerin, who was accompanied by coach Dean Evason, delivered the decision in person Saturday to the Spurgeon family, he shared the news with the team Sunday when the Wild opened training camp at Tria Rink in St. Paul with medicals and fitness testing. The first on-ice practice of camp is Monday.
"Jared is a guy that everybody in our locker room respects," said Guerin. "We know we can count on him. He's a person that everybody in our organization gravitate toward, and we just feel how Jared's approached his career — signing a free-agent contract and working his way up the lineup and becoming not just a solid player for our organization but a standout player and standout human being — it's just the fitting role for him, and we couldn't be happier."
Even with higher-profile names like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter — both of whom will remain alternate captains — and a vocal leader in Marcus Foligno on the roster, Spurgeon's selection isn't surprising.
After agreeing to a seven-year, $53,025,000 million contract extension in September 2019 that begins this season, Spurgeon is among the longest-signed players on the Wild roster. He also carries the highest cap hit ($7,575,000) on the team, surpassing the average annual value of the 13-year, $98 million deals for Parise and Suter.
But numbers don't tell the whole story.
"What Jared has done, what he stands for, and how he carries himself, it became clear that he was going to be the right choice," said Guerin, who vetted "everybody" and consulted with owner Craig Leipold and team President Matt Majka on the pick, receiving unanimous support.
Despite being undersized, Spurgeon has blossomed into one of the Wild's best defenseman as a steady, cerebral worker who fills out the top pairing next to Suter and can handle all situations.
After getting drafted 156th overall in 2008 and then going unsigned by the Islanders, Spurgeon turned a tryout with the Wild into a contract. "I was just working hard and trying to prove myself, and I still to this day try to do that," he said.
Spurgeon spent only 21 games in the minors before he made his NHL debut and by the following season, the 5-9, 167-pound Edmonton native was a mainstay.
In 2018-19, Spurgeon established career-highs in goals (14), assists (29), points (43) and games (82).Last season, he racked up 12 goals and 20 assists in 62 games. Spurgeon and Suter also averaged the most minutes on the team, and the two's goal differential at 5-on-5 during the regular season was among the best for the league's No. 1 units (plus-13) even though the pair made the most defensive-zone starts and on-the-fly starts on the Wild.
Overall, through 653 career games, the 31-year-old has accumulated 82 goals, 198 assists and 280 points.
"When you talk about flying under-the-radar, I think that's a public perception maybe," Guerin said. "But in the world of hockey, in the world that I live in, he's no secret."
While he isn't one of the loudest voices on the team, Spurgeon isn't afraid to share what he thinks and he certainly sets an example by the way he acts.
Even before he became captain, he was behaving like one — reaching out to Kirill Kaprizov in the summer, and Marco Rossi after he was drafted by the Wild. Being approachable and a calming presence is how Spurgeon believes a captain can make an impact.
And the Wild doesn't want Spurgeon to switch up his style just because his jersey is now affixed with a "C."
"When guys try to change who they are, that's when they get in trouble," Guerin said. "Some of the best captains I've ever played with were guys that really didn't say much. Sidney Crosby doesn't say a ton between periods, if anything. Scott Stevens, same thing. They just let their game do the talking.
"You always knew that you could rely on them. They set the standard for how guys work, how they train, how they act, how they treat other people. Those are all important things.
"You don't have to give the best Knute Rockne speeches or anything like that to be a good captain. We chose Jared for certain reasons, and we don't want him to change."
That message was part of the conversation Guerin and Evason had with Spurgeon on Saturday night.
The two also explained the responsibilities of the post, what they want to see accomplished and how Spurgeon and his wife Danielle, who have four children, can help — with Guerin describing the family as a "perfect fit."
The opportunity to take on this role is exclusive, a spotlight unlike any Spurgeon has experienced before in his career.
And he plans to embrace it by staying true to himself. "You don't change who you are because of what's going on," Spurgeon said. "So, I'm going to continue to work hard, and we want to get to that end goal of being champions. That's where we're trying to head."