WASHINGTON – One of the highlights for visiting teams playing in the D.C. area is getting to sightsee.
Several players took advantage Monday, especially defenseman Ryan Suter, who set up a behind-the-scenes tour of the U.S. Capitol building for himself, teammates Eric Staal, Jason Pominville and Jared Spurgeon and video coach Jonas Plumb.
“We got to walk around and see the ins and outs,” Suter said. “We got to go on Speaker [Paul Ryan’s] balcony, so that was pretty cool. Unbelievable view from up there. It was fun to get to take that in.”
Suter hadn’t done much sightseeing in Washington since a field trip as a kid, so he joked this was the first time he actually paid attention.
Staal won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, so he was previously fortunate enough to see the inside of the White House. But he loved the Capitol, too.
“I’m Canadian, but I pay attention to politics and love history, so it was neat,” Staal said.
Several Wild staffers also had a neat experience Monday. Owner Craig Leipold, a bigwig in the Republican party in Wisconsin, took the Wild coaches and training staff for dinner.
It turned out White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was having dinner at the same restaurant, as were Senators Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell and McConnell’s wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
Leipold has known Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, for 15 years, so Priebus and the others came over to the Wild’s table to say hello and chat.
Taking long way to D.C.
Martin Hanzal is back in the Twin Cities because of strep throat, so center Tyler Graovac was recalled to play the Capitals.
With a winter storm hitting the D.C. area, the Wild was barely able to get Graovac on the one nonstop flight from Austin, Texas, where the Iowa Wild was, into Washington on Monday night.
His gear was another story. Iowa’s equipment was already back in Des Moines, and the Wild didn’t want to chance overnighting it because of a potential FedEx ground stoppage because of the storm.
So the team flew an Iowa equipment staffer and Graovac’s gear to Washington through Minneapolis. Despite a near-canceled flight, delays and a flight diversion, the gear got to Washington at 3:30 a.m.
“The gear will be tired. Grao shouldn’t be,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher joked.
Graovac was glad to be back.
“It feels like I’m playing with two teams this year,” he said. “Obviously, I am. It’s been a blast down there. We had two wins this weekend. We are playing for a playoff spot. And up here we are trying to stay on top. I’m trying to help the best that I can.”
With Graovac back, Jordan Schroeder was scratched. Fletcher said Hanzal will miss Thursday’s game at Carolina. Defenseman Gustav Olofsson is out “multiple days,” Fletcher said. It’s believed he has a concussion.
A day with Boudreau
Every year, Bruce Boudreau donates a day with, as he kidded, “the Wild or Ducks or Caps — whatever team I’m coaching” to an auction at the Congressional Country Club.
Tuesday morning, brother and sister Jack and Dylan Carroll, two huge Capitals fans, spent the day with the Wild after their grandparents made the winning bid.
Boudreau showered them with a giant duffel bag full of Wild gifts, and the kids sat on the bench during the morning skate, bussed back to the team hotel, had a pregame meal with the players and attended the game.
“We’ve got two new Wild fans,” Boudreau said.
The Wild was fuming after the AHL suspended Iowa defenseman Nick Seeler for three games for checking the head of an opponent.
Assistant GM Brent Flahr said the “video clearly shows it was a hard but clean hit. The initial point of contact was clearly through the body.”