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Wild's Carter returns to outdoor roots

Minnesota forward learned game playing outside

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director, Editorial

Ryan Carter can't get enough outdoor hockey. 

"For me, that's where I fell in love with the game; outside on the ice," said Carter, a forward with the Minnesota Wild. 

Don't take Carter's statement as a flair for the dramatic. He backs up his words through action.

While most of his teammates scattered to warmer locales where golf, sun and surf were on the agenda, and ice skates and frozen rinks were forgotten for 72 hours during the All-Star break, Carter stayed in the Minneapolis area. 

Carter took to some of the same outdoor rinks in White Bear Lake, Minn., that he called home as a kid. 

"Just a couple minutes from my house; jumped out there early in the morning," Carter said, breaking into a huge grin. "The ice is good, the city takes pride in it. Fresh, clean ice, they take the nets off so they don't melt in. It was nice." 

Carter will get his outdoor fix again when the Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series on Sunday at TCF Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). 

Those morning twirls were more than a trip down memory lane for Carter. They were a reflection on the road he has traveled to being a part of one of the League's marquee events and playing outdoors as an NHL player for the second time. Carter, 32, was a member of the New Jersey Devils when they played the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium in 2014.

Video: MIN@NYR: Carter opens scoring early on the breakaway

He couldn't help but think about the rink built behind his house as a child. It was the collective effort of several families, built on land abutting several of the houses in the neighborhood. Carter said the rink had boards and lights and rivaled the outdoor rinks maintained by the city; three of which were within walking distance of his house. 

"The neighborhood dads did it right," Carter said. 

It was a special gift to Carter because he was not from a hockey family. He said he was the first in his family to play the game and needed to learn its nuances and codes, and the rink behind the house became a classroom that convened after school and ran to dinnertime, if not well beyond. 

"I just played," Carter said. "It's buddies your own age, you are trying things, it gets competitive and you learn that about yourself, how to compete and things like that too. There are a lot of facets of the game that are learned and picked up on the outdoor ice sheet playing around." 

Sometimes, it was one half of the neighborhood against the other. Other times it was the older kids against the younger kids. Sometimes, when nobody else was around, it was Carter and a puck and the freedom to do whatever he could conjure up in his imagination. 

Those memories have never dissipated. 

Carter was not drafted after playing at Minnesota State University-Mankato, but was signed to a minor-league deal by the Anaheim Ducks in 2006. He won the Stanley Cup in 2007, playing in one game of the Stanley Cup Final. He went to the Final with the Devils in 2012, but fell short. 

Today, he is a regular for his hometown Wild and has 459 NHL games on his resume. Yet, Carter has never forgotten his hockey roots; those magical afternoons in the often bitter cold, playing with, and against, friends and neighbors as he first fell in love with the game. 

He will again get to rekindle that love affair on Sunday at TFC Stadium. 

"I think I am going to get some of those same feelings," Carter said. "The cold air when it hits your face, it's a different smell than you get in the rink, it's a different glare and things like that. It's those feelings that bring it back. Your sweat is freezing down your face a little bit, your jersey gets crispy. Those things are going to be neat and it really brings you back to your childhood."

Video: Blackhawks, Wild Stadium Series Time-Lapse

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