Jamie Leopold walked into the kitchen one January morning and saw a letter her 11-year-old daughter had written sitting on the counter.
She started crying.
Jordyn Leopold’s letter was addressed to the “Minnesota Wild coaches,” and with the Wild in a desperate funk, her daughter pleaded for the team to trade for her father so he could return to his family in Minnesota.
The Wild never got the letter. But on Monday they brought 34-year-old Jordan Leopold, a former Gophers All-America defenseman, home.
The Wild traded a fifth-round pick and defenseman Justin Falk to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the Golden Valley native and former Robbinsdale Armstrong star.
“We were looking for depth, looking for a left-shot defenseman and looking for a guy that has played in the playoffs and can move the puck,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said.
Fletcher joked that once he read Jordyn’s touching letter Monday, “the pressure was immense.”
That letter went viral because Jamie Leopold, who first posted it on Facebook in January, sent it to KFAN’s Paul Allen. The host of the station’s 9-to-noon show read the letter on the air and posted it on his Twitter account.
In the letter, Jordyn expressed that her dad is “very lonly without his family” in Columbus.
“We are living in Minnesota right now and I am lost without my dad and so is my mom, my 2 sisters, and my brother,” Jordyn wrote. “It has been since November and we cannot take it anymore. … please, please, please ask the Jackets if you guys can get him!”
Jamie Leopold told KFAN’s Dan Barreiro, “My daughter just wanted her daddy home.” After the trade, Jamie called Jordyn at school: “I told her that I had even sent her letter on to a few news places and she’s like, ‘Oh cool.’ She’s very excited and she probably thinks this is the greatest thing ever.”
Fletcher called the letter “very powerful” and said “we may have an opening on our communications staff.”
Jordan Leopold, who will speak to the media Tuesday morning, is expected to play Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators, wearing No. 33, because Marco Scandella is questionable because of an injury. Fletcher said he had been talking to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen for weeks about Leopold, but every time Fletcher thought a trade was close, a different Blue Jackets defenseman would get hurt.
“The Leopold [trade] was about doing the right thing for a guy that’s been a great pro for us, done everything we’ve asked,” Kekalainen said.
Leopold, acquired by Columbus from St. Louis for a fifth-round pick earlier this season, is known as a great locker-room guy with good vision and passing ability. He scored 67 goals and 213 points in 677 games for seven teams.
In addition to winning a national title with the Gophers (it was Leopold’s rebound that Grant Potulny knocked home for the overtime winner against Maine at Xcel Energy Center in 2002), Leopold won the Hobey Baker Award that season, scoring 20 goals and 48 points in 44 games.
One reason why the Wild felt the need to pursue a defenseman was because of a concussion to Keith Ballard, Leopold’s Gophers teammate in 2002 when Ballard was a freshman and Leopold was a senior.
“For me coming in to the U, I just sat back and watched Jordan and Paul Martin,” Ballard said. “I was really lucky. Two great teammates to sit back, watch and learn from.
“Jordan was a pure offensive defenseman in college, and there was more attention on him than anybody. But in the NHL, I know he bounced around, but he has turned into a real good defensive player.”
It’s not expected that Ballard, in the final year of his contract, will return. Out since Dec. 9, Ballard has skated a few times, but he said Monday he has been unable to ramp up his workouts without symptoms.