Matt Dumba fell in love with hockey playing outdoors, and he's giving others the chance to do the same.
The Wild defenseman is launching the inaugural Matt Dumba Hockey Without Limits Camp on Saturday at the Guidant John Rose MN OVAL as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2021.
Youth players from the Herb Brooks Foundation, the Hendrickson Foundation and New Directions Youth Ministry will take part in the event created by Dumba to bring more diversity and inclusion to the game.
"It's just an awesome opportunity for the kids who don't necessarily get this opportunity to come to a hockey camp like this," Dumba said. "Make some memories [and] make some new friendships."
Dumba started working on the concept in September after he became synonymous with hockey's social justice movement, helping form the Hockey Diversity Alliance to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey. He went on to win the NHL's King Clancy Trophy for his leadership qualities and contributions to the community.
With the Wild in action Saturday against the Kings at Xcel Energy Center, Dumba won't be able to make an appearance at the camp. But the attendees will see a message from Dumba, and Dumba wants to connect with them afterward. About 40 children from each of the three groups are expected to participate.
"It will be super cool to see just the diversity amongst our group — white, Black, Hispanic kids, inner-city kids," he said.
"That's where you can make the most change for the next generation of young hockey players, young leaders in our game. Having a camp like mine with as much inclusivity and diversity involved in it as there's going to be is something special, something hockey's really never seen before."
Cam Talbot returned to action Friday for the first time since getting cleared from the NHL's COVID protocols last week.
Even after Talbot rejoined the team on its recent road trip, backup Kaapo Kahkonen continued to get the nod in net. Kahkonen ended up making five consecutive starts and backstopping the Wild to four straight wins.
This was Talbot's first appearance since Feb. 2 at Colorado.
"It's a great thing for a coaching staff when you can have that decision be the tough one," coach Dean Evason said.
The most excited the Wild has been all season, Evason said, was when rookie Nico Sturm scored his first regular-season goal Wednesday in the 6-2 rout at Colorado.
"The most exciting part was seeing how happy all the other guys were for me," said Sturm, whose first goal in the NHL came in the playoffs last season.
Sturm's empty-net goal gave him only two points this season, but he has helped the Wild plenty as a checker and penalty killer.
"To be on the fourth line and play 10-12 minutes, those got to be the 10-12 hardest minutes that I can play and I actually feel really comfortable doing it," said Sturm, who feels "pretty much back to normal" after having COVID-19 earlier this month. "The coaching staff sees that I'm comfortable in this role as well and I'm actually having a positive impact on the team."
Fans in the building
The Wild welcomed about 40 fans to Xcel Energy Center on Friday after Gov. Tim Walz scaled back crowd restrictions earlier this month, increasing the limit of attendees to 250 from 150 during the team's previous homestand. Aside from family and friends of players and Wild employees, some season-ticket holders took in the action from the club level. Around 40 fans are also expected for Saturday's game.
Forward Marcus Johansson sat out a fourth straight game with an upper-body injury.
Goalie Alex Stalock, who's out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, skated with the taxi squad Friday morning. Evason described it as a progression for Stalock. "He's excited about getting some live pucks," Evason said.