Years after he left the Predators for the Wild, Ryan Suter would get booed when he'd play the puck in Nashville.
But that's not the reception he received from fans at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.
The crowd gave him a standing ovation after the Wild acknowledged his return with a highlight-reel video from his nine seasons with the franchise.
"It was my choice to leave Nashville," Suter said before the game. "It wasn't my choice to leave here."
Still wearing No. 20 but now donning a different shade of green, Suter faced off against his former team for the first time since joining the Stars after the Wild bought out his contract in July.
That meant an "awkward" walk into the arena, and Suter anticipated an emotional game. But the veteran defenseman enjoyed his tenure with the Wild despite that unceremonious exit.
"We loved everything about it," said Suter, who had family and friends at the game. "We made the playoffs eight out of the nine years I was here, which is pretty cool. Yeah, we didn't win the Stanley Cup, which is disappointing. But we were in a situation where we had a chance to, and a lot of teams would be pretty grateful for that experience.
"So, I'm really proud of my time here. I think we did a lot for this city and for the organization."
Suter and Zach Parise joined the Wild as free agents in 2012, signing matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, and they left at the same time — getting bought out during a transformative offseason for the Wild.
"If your boss doesn't want you, they get rid of you most of the time," Suter said. "That's what happened in my opinion and [I've] moved on."
Each is getting paid approximately $6.7 million over eight years for the final four seasons that were left on their deals, but both have found new teams; Suter signed a four-year, $14.6 million deal with the Stars, while Parise is with the New York Islanders. Parise and Suter actually talked before Parise played his first game back at Xcel Energy Center earlier this month.
"It was shock," Suter said about the Wild's decision to cut ties. "I had zero conversation about this. Nobody said anything about it, and then it happens and you have to deal with it. It was shock and then it was excitement. Teams calling and wanting you to be part of [their] organization was pretty cool."
In Dallas, Suter has settled on the team's top defensive pairing with John Klingberg and he's contributing like he has throughout his nearly 17-year NHL career. Not only does the 36-year-old average among the most minutes on the team, but he's chipped in on offense — including on the power play, with two goals and six assists in 14 games before playing the Wild.
"Just playing against these guys for so many years I know how hard they work, how they compete and how much they want to win," Suter said.
His wife, Becky, and their four children were at the game Thursday, and Suter said "the greatest thing" was the life the family shared away from the rink, like skating outdoors.
"All the local rinks, they flood them every morning, and it's like glass for these kids," said Suter, who is the franchise leader in assists (314) and points (369) among defensemen after suiting up for 656 regular-season games. "That's the thing we miss most about it. But also the kids were swimming the other day, too. You just gotta kind of remind them. They say they miss this, but then show them a picture of them swimming [and] they're pumped."
Dream come true
Riley Tufte could see Xcel Energy Center from Children's Hospital Minnesota in St. Paul when he was there as an 11-year-old diagnosed with diabetes.
"I was dreaming in that hospital bed of playing in the National Hockey League," the former Blaine High School standout and 2016 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year said.
That's exactly where he ended up, getting summoned to the Stars last week from the minors after the Minnesota Duluth alum was drafted in the first round, 25th overall, in 2016 by Dallas.
After making his NHL debut last Saturday vs. the Flyers, Tufte stayed in the lineup for another game but was scratched against the Wild.