Back in the day, when Brian Rolston was blowing slapshots past helpless goaltenders while wearing a Wild sweater, Ryder, Brody and Stone Rolston used to run around the locker room after games playing knee hockey on the carpet.
Ryder would blast balls of tape past Brent Burns and Mikko Koivu. All three boys would watch reporters surround their always quotable dad.
Back then, they really didn't understand exactly what their father did and how popular he was.
Ryder is 13 now. Stone is 10.
Monday, Ryder and Stone (two of Rolston's four sons) accompanied their dad back to Xcel Energy Center and got to witness what Wild fans think of their father. Rolston, who hit the 30-goal mark in all three of his seasons with the Wild and made the All-Star Game in 2007, signed hundreds of autographs to many people wearing No. 12 Rolston jerseys. Then, Wild fans serenaded him with an earsplitting cheer prior to his doing the customary "Let's Play Hockey" chant prior to Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues.
"It's exciting to be back," said the 42-year-old Rolston, who played 18 years in the NHL. "I look upon my time here very fondly. It was really the best years of my career. I'm honored the organization asked me to come back for this.
"This is an exciting time for the Wild. Who would have thought that they'd make this trade and [Devan] Dubnyk would come in and be this phenomenal? I think they legitimately have a chance to win a Stanley Cup this year from watching their team and the way they play. They had all the pieces in January, but it's goaltending, goaltending, goaltending in the NHL. You've got to have it. Don't have it, you've got no shot."
Rolston scouts for the Coyotes, mostly by analyzing video. He was part of their trade deadline meetings and is getting educated behind the scenes so he could have a future in the game. He actually would love to work for the Wild "because we always talk about coming back."
In the meantime, Rolston lives outside Detroit and is coaching Ryder's Little Caesars' bantam team. Stone will also play for Little Caesars' squirt team.
"Stone was born here," Rolston said, laughing. "He's a Minnesotan, so he's back home."
Rolston helped lead the Wild to two postseason appearances, including the franchise's only division championship in 2008. Asked if that 2008 Northwest Division team could beat this current Wild team, Rolston said: "Probably no. This team is more mature.
"Mikko, Butch [Pierre-Marc Bouchard], Burnzie, all those guys were young kids. They were babies. Now, you see the maturation of Mikko and [Ryan] Suter and to me, Zach epitomizes what a leader is. Tenacious, never cheats and a great person.
"You have more leaders here, guys that have been battle tested, so I really believe in this Wild team and look forward to seeing if they can go far. But the future is bright with these leaders and all their young kids."