First impressions aren’t always accurate.
Just ask Charlie Coyle, who correlated the name “Zucker” with “Jerk!!!” after reading the name on the back of his opponent’s jersey.
Eight years ago Coyle, from Massachusetts, and Jason Zucker, from Las Vegas, were on opposite teams at USA Hockey’s Under-16 festival in Rochester, N.Y. There was a battle, “and all of a sudden, I get this hack on the back of my leg. The play goes back the other end, and I look and it’s this guy!” Coyle said as his Wild teammate and best friend sat next to him, shaking his head.
“He just kind of looks at me, starts yelling and swearing at me and skates away. I didn’t even do anything! I look at the back of the shirt and see the name, “Zucker,” and said to myself, ‘I freaking hate this guy.’ ”
Zucker, rolling his eyes, interrupted: “I’ve heard this story like four times. I still don’t know if it’s true. I don’t remember it at all.”
Yet, “that’s how it started. I hated him,” said Coyle, the best man at Zucker’s recent wedding.
The team has dubbed them “Zoyle” and posed them for pictures as a parody to Zucker’s favorite movie, “Step Brothers.” They’ve been persuaded to do a photo shoot for “12 Days of Zoyle,” where they dressed in Christmas sweaters for funny poses.
The latest? “Coyle-Zucker 2016” election T-shirts.
“I always get a kick out of what they can make the two of them do,” said Carly Zucker, Jason’s bride of two months — although their marriage is not yet officially recognized by the State of California because Coyle fouled up the marriage license (more on that later).
Coyle and Zucker are open to any ideas the Wild has in mind.
“It’s a friendship, so it’s not something we dread,” Zucker said. “Usually the way it works, Whitey [team operations manager Andrew Heydt] brings the shirts in the middle of the locker room and says, ‘Put these on, we have to take a picture,’ so every guy’s staring at us in election shirts.”
Two years after that first on-ice clash, Zucker was drafted in the second round by the Wild, Coyle in the first by the San Jose Sharks. A year later, Coyle was traded to the Wild.
They’ve lived together in St. Paul and Minneapolis. In 2013, whenever Zucker would get called up, he would crash at Coyle’s apartment and pay prorated rent.
In St. Paul, Coyle got rid of his dining room table, chairs and couches and put in a pingpong table. In Minneapolis two years ago, a pingpong table was joined by a dartboard and arcade basketball.
They hung a chalkboard, and whoever won any game got a tally. They kept score for the entire hockey season, although they didn’t keep track on game days so they wouldn’t get angry at each other. Zucker had a propensity for breaking paddles in frustration.
“Every game went down to the wire,” Coyle said. “It was crazy. Darts, it’d be the last one, pingpong all one-point games. It was freakishly even.”
“Pingpong, I started off like 10-0 and ended up losing the year,” Zucker said. “The wall was just ruined from darts.”
They try to rib each other, although Zucker says, “It’s tough with this guy because he doesn’t care about anything. He doesn’t get rattled.”
Well, except by Zucker’s cleanliness obsession.
“I don’t miss that,” Coyle said.
“Please,” Zucker said, “You’re a mess.”
“Give me a break,” Coyle said. “I’m clean, but you’re crazy, over-the-top clean.”
About the speech …
Now 24, with a combined 94 goals in 440 NHL games, they’ve both grown up.
Coyle bought a condo in downtown Minneapolis, where he lives with girlfriend Erin Nanne, a granddaughter of former North Stars player, coach and General Manager Lou Nanne. Jason and Carly Zucker moved into a new home in Edina.
Carly, who hosts the Timberwolves Entertainment Network, asked Jason if he wanted to use their two Vikings-Giants tickets for a “date night” with Charlie.
“He tried to do the right thing, saying, ‘Oh, no, we should go,’ ” Carly said. “Then he said, ‘Why don’t I just ask Charlie and see if Charlie says yes?’ ”
“It’s not just a show that the Wild puts them together. They have a very loyal friendship. It’s really sweet the two of them like to have their time together,” Carly said.
All summer, Zucker wanted to check in with Coyle to make sure he was writing his best man speech, not just “winging it.” Carly kept ensuring Jason that “Charlie always upstages everyone very quietly and humbly, so don’t worry.”
Nevertheless, Zucker made a final checklist. On the same line as writing his vows was, “Charlie’s speech.”
“I called a week before and go … ‘Just wanted to see if everything’s all set with the wedding, anything the groomsmen need? So … where are you at with the speech?’ ” Zucker said.
Said Coyle: “I haven’t written a word yet.”
“Are you going to work on it?” Zucker asked, nervously.
“I’ve got it, I’ve got, I’ve got it,” promised Coyle.
On the plane to the wedding, Coyle began typing things on his phone.
“I hate talking in front of people. I hate it,” Coyle said. “It was my biggest fear going in.”
About the license ...
There were several speeches. Carly’s 6-year-old daughter, Sophia — who calls Coyle “Uncle Chucky” — gave about four. Carly’s sister, Katie, broke down crying as she offered marriage advice.
“Meanwhile, I have jokes,” Coyle said.
“But,” Zucker said, “I think his was the best speech of the weekend.”
Added Carly, “It was hysterical and probably the best ‘best man speech’ I’ve ever heard. It was so sweet. Charlie has sisters, and he said to Jason, “You’re the brother I’ve never had.”
The Zuckers married July 29. In mid-August, Jason realized they never received their marriage certificate. He called the courthouse and was told the paperwork was denied.
Instead of printing his name on one line and signing another, Coyle signed both.
“The wedding planner told me to sign here and sign here, so I did as told, and that’s it,” Coyle said.
The Zuckers still are waiting for their marriage license to arrive.
“The joke is that he’s trying to sabotage us so Jason and Charlie can just live happily ever after,” Carly said.
Their friendship always gets teammates cracking jokes, too. Last week, Coyle and Zucker just happened to arrive at the arena the same time.
“We walk into the room, and Mikko [Koivu] had that look in his eyes,” Coyle said. “We know a joke’s coming about us being together, so I just said, ‘What do you got today, Mikko? Don’t even say it.’