Jared Spurgeon is listed at 5-9 and 176 pounds — small for an NHL player, particularly a defenseman. But the 26-year-old Wild mainstay has carved out a niche as a solid two-way NHL player from humble beginnings. Spurgeon, who entered the weekend tied for fifth on the team with 14 points, chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q How often were you told growing up that you were too small to make it to the NHL?
A Probably from about Bantams on, so when I was 13 or 14 and things got more serious. I was cut from a team for being too small. That’s when it started. But it gives you motivation, and you use it when you’re training. It was a blessing in disguise.
Q When did you stop listening to it?
A Right away. I was fortunate. In Edmonton, you can go through a draft if you get released from your team. I ended up getting picked up by another team and played there for three years. I was able to play for a different coach that didn’t think about my size as much. I got to prove people wrong.
Q You came to Wild camp in 2010 as an unsigned free agent. What were you thinking at that point of your career?
A I was nervous, but it was exciting to come to a different organization with a fresh start.
Q When did you feel like you belonged?
A Probably after the second year. The first year you’re always nervous about going up and down [to the minors]. The second year you’re still trying to prove yourself, but you gain confidence as you go. That third year you grow more confident in your game.
Q How do you define the type of game and skill set that you have?
A A little bit of everything. I try to defend well and make a good first pass and be offensive when I can without being overbearing and jumping too much into the rush. … The coaches give us the green light when the opportunity is there to go out and make plays.
Q The Wild has made a habit of needing strong finishes to make the playoffs and already went through a lull this season. How does this team find the consistency it wants?
A I think a lot of it is maturity in the room, with guys growing up as individuals and as a team. I think this year we’ve been doing a pretty good job. Obviously we had a little slide there, but we’re trying to bounce back. Everyone is going to have those lulls in the season, but you have to stop them as quickly as you can.
Q You guys are 2-0 against Chicago this season. Can you build momentum through the season should you meet them again in the playoffs, or is the postseason just different?
A It matters to us, especially since they’re divisional games. You have to win them. Obviously the last couple years haven’t gone the way we wanted to. We’re going to have to work hard just to get through the season to make the playoffs. If we do end up meeting them again, we have to prove ourselves.
Q Who is your funniest teammate?
A Oh, probably [Thomas Vanek]. And [Ryan] Carter. They’re pretty witty guys, quick on the draw. You don’t have much time to respond to those guys.