John Mariucci played for the Chicago Blackhawks for five seasons before and after World War II. He returned to the NHL as an assistant coach for the expansion Minnesota North Stars in 1967, and often made this observation on the world of professional hockey:
“If you’re a player or a coach, you should put your house on wheels.’’
This is a theory that would have well-served Jordan Leopold during a 12-season NHL career that has included eight trades. There are several highlights in this wandering:
Leopold was traded the first time in 2000, when he had two seasons remaining at the University of Minnesota. Leopold was traded by Calgary to Colorado and by Colorado to Calgary. Leopold has been traded four times since 2009 at the league deadline for deals.
None of those trades garnered the attention of the most recent, which occurred Monday when the Wild obtained Leopold from Columbus for a fifth-round draft choice and defenseman Justin Falk.
Leopold had been scratched in 18 consecutive games at one point for the Blue Jackets. On Tuesday, he said: “There was a time when we had nine D-men active on the roster, and I was the ninth.’’
So, yeah, this trade wouldn’t have drawn many headlines, except for two factors:
Leopold played high school hockey for Robbinsdale Armstrong, he won a national championship and a Hobey Baker Award for the Gophers, and he has a 10-year-old wordsmith as the oldest of his four children.
Daughter Jordyn was instructed by her elementary school teacher back in January to write a persuasive letter, and she addressed it to the hometown hockey team, asking the Wild to trade for her dad so that he could be home in the Twin Cities with the family.
The letter stayed there for the bemusement of family and friends. On Monday, it became public, and when Leopold was traded, the national headlines were that the Wild decisionmakers — with great benevolence — had brought home Daddy at the behest of his daughter.
It’s a warmhearted story, although NHL teams in the mood for some insurance on defense during a playoff push have not needed such lobbying to acquire Leopold, now 34, on previous trade deadlines.
“As a player going through it, you kind of joke around any time you get a phone call on deadline day, even if it’s your mom or dad,’’ he said. “It’s never a comfortable feeling … The good thing is I’ve been able to adapt pretty well to wherever I’ve been moved.
“That’s probably part of the reason I’ve been traded so many times. I like to look at that as a positive.’’
One advantage for Leopold in recent years is that it’s been difficult to go anywhere that there aren’t players that have been teammates in previous stops. He showed up Tuesday for the morning skate at Xcel Energy Center to find five former teammates on the Wild roster:
Thomas Vanek (Buffalo), Jason Pominville (Buffalo), Chris Stewart (Colorado, St. Louis), Matt Cooke (Pittsburgh) and Keith Ballard (Florida).
Leopold also was in Colorado as a teammate of assistant coach Andrew Brunette, and in Pittsburgh when Wild head coach Mike Yeo was an assistant.
In these parts, the most famous reunion would be with the injured Ballard, since Jordan and Keith joined Paul Martin to form a remarkable nucleus of defensemen for the Gophers champions of 2002.
Leopold mentioned his ties with Ballard, Vanek and Pominville, and with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on U.S. national teams, and then added:
“Chris Stewart … I played with Chris [twice]. He called me right away [Monday] and started singing, ‘Reunited and it feels so good.’ ’’
Stewart, a forward of size and scoring ability, came to the Wild from Buffalo a couple of hours after Leopold was acquired.
And for all we know, Leopold had run across Peaches & Herb, the “Reunited’’ duet from the late ’70s, singing an anthem somewhere in his moves, but now he’s home, and if it would end here being any part of a Wild playoff run, it would be perfect.
“My kids picked me up at the airport last night with open arms and it was special,’’ Leopold said. “I try not to get emotional, but it is.’’
The red eyes and choked-up voice were a strong hint that Jordan Leopold, a former Armstrong Falcon and Minnesota Gopher, wasn’t overstating what it would mean to be playing in a hometown sweater in front of his four kids Tuesday night in St. Paul.