With the Minnesota Wild just hours from playing a game in Ottawa on Tuesday night, they can already call this visit a bigger success than the previous one they had two years ago.
The Wild put forth a lackluster effort in a 4-1 loss at Scotiabank Place on Dec. 18, 2009. You can forgive the players, though, considering they lost about 95 percent of their equipment in a truck fire about 24 hours prior to the game.
The fire was caused by a blowtorch that ignited in one of the equipment bags, something that the team made sure to avoid this time around before they flew from Long Island to Ottawa over the weekend.
"I called the truck driver and told him, 'We won't need a torch in the truck for this pickup, so leave it at the rink,'" Wild equipment manager Tony DaCosta said jokingly to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "As an equipment manager, that would be your worst nightmare. I've seen where you can lose a bag and make that work. But you lose the whole team, or 95 percent of it, when you think back, it's amazing we actually played the game and the League made us play the game."
The Wild were able to play that game thanks largely to the efforts of their assistant equipment managers. Brent Proulx, who is no longer with the club, and Matt Benz gathered all the spare equipment they could back in Minnesota and got it to the team in time for the gameday skate in the morning.
"It's not the way you want to prepare for a game, but the trainers did an unbelievable job to even make this game possible," goalie Niklas Backstrom said following the loss. He was wearing replacement gear after most of his original equipment was burned in the fire.
If the Wild can leave Ottawa with both a win and their equipment Tuesday, it will be a doubly successful trip. Players can joke about it now, but at the time it had the team in such a panic that they weren't sure they'd be able to play that night.
"It's remarkable our trainers got it together," defenseman Nick Schultz told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "But seriously. Can you imagine? Like your only job is to make sure the equipment doesn't catch in flames, and it does."
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