The Wild held off the ceremony to honor Eric Staal for playing his 1,000th game until Tuesday so it could come before the team played Carolina, the franchise he captained and which drafted him second overall in 2003.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes 11 years ago.
“It’s pretty cool,” Staal said before a ceremony that included his family and brother Jordan, who plays for Carolina. “I spent a lot of time there, a majority of games have been there. They do the [silver] stick pass thing, so to be able to do that with them here, and obviously Jordan here, it’ll be pretty special.”
Besides the traditional silver stick, the Wild gave the Staals a trip for his family to take this summer. He received a Tiffany crystal from the NHL, a Rolex watch from his teammates and a donation of $5,000 from the Wild Foundation to the Staal Family Foundation.
The Hurricanes presented Staal with a commemorative painting from a Raleigh artist that had a profile of Staal, a picture of him lifting the Stanley Cup and a shot of his first big fist pump.
Staal said his three kids were looking forward to the evening.
“They’ve been talking about it for the last little while, my kids, just being out there,” Staal said. “They love the vibe of the beginning of the game here. It’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, so for them to be right down on ice level, in the mix for that, and enjoy being out on the ice, it’ll be cool for them.”
Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell, the longtime Chicago Blackhawk, played his first NHL game since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November.
“We didn’t know when this day was going to come, but I’m happy to be here, happy to be in Minnesota,” Bickell said Tuesday morning.
Bickell appreciated the words of wisdom he received from the outset from Josh Harding, the Wild goalie who retired because of MS.
“I know with MS you need to keep cool, and that was a big thing for him,” Bickell said. “He was a goalie. He had to stand up the whole time. I get breaks. I get to sit on the bench. But it’s nice to reach out to him and get some thoughts off what he’s been through.”
Harding gave more support to Bickell by attending Tuesday’s game.
“It’s a heck of a battle he’s dealing with, and I respect the heck out of him for battling through it,” Harding said.
Wearing the star
To pay homage to the NHL coming to Minnesota 50 years ago, Wild players wore 1967 replica North Stars jerseys during warmups, and Zach Parise wore the helmet and gloves of his late father, J.P., who played nine seasons for the North Stars. Some worn jerseys were given away to fans, some will be up for auction.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has good memories of the North Stars.
“I scored a hat trick against them one night, so it’s good. Didn’t even get No. 1 star. Still ticks me off,” Boudreau joked of an 8-5 win over the North Stars by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 16, 1977.
• Winger Jason Zucker took part in Tuesday’s morning skate but missed his third game because of a lower body injury.
• Chris Stewart was a healthy scratch for the second time in six games. Wingers Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White both played.