ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was keeping a close eye on the clock ahead of their game against the Ottawa Senators at 7 p.m. local time Monday.
Players are supposed to report to Xcel Energy Center by 5 p.m. on game nights, but blizzard conditions had commutes pushing three hours for some of them.
By 6 p.m., Boudreau still was missing six players.
"[I was] just hoping they got here," Boudreau said. "I thought they'd show up, I mean they all left around 3:00, so I mean I just figured that they'd be here at some point. [Team operations manager] Andrew [Heydt] did a great job of getting the valet guys out there and actually stepping into their car and letting them walk to the rink when they were a third of a mile or a quarter of a mile away.
"As long as I put their name on the score sheet, they're eligible."
All 20 players arrived in time for the game, a 3-1 win, but with wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour and snow accumulating up to eight inches in parts of the Twin Cities metro area by 5 p.m., players found themselves running to the rink -- literally.
Wild forward Daniel Winnik parked his car in the nearest lot and walked one block in his dress shoes to avoid being late.
"I didn't want to be late, No.1, and I'm literally a block away, so why not?" Winnik said. "It's not like I can't go back and get my car now. I even thought of ditching it when I was at the exit. I sat at that light for seven minutes, and I was like, 'Forget this.' As I was leaving, the guy was like, 'Where are you going?' I'm like, 'I'm parking my car.' He usually has a sign up, but he was fine with it. So, then I just walked over."
It took forward Mikael Granlund, who had a goal and an assist in the win, 2 1/2 hours to drive the 28 miles from his Minneapolis home. He arrived at the rink just after 6 p.m.
Defenseman Matt Dumba arrived just before Granlund, but not before getting into a fender bender with a teammate.
"We had a police escort … but people didn't really appreciate that, they were honking and trying to cut us off. I was just trying to get to the game," Dumba said. "But we tried to keep our convoy of me, [Tyler Ennis] and [Jonas] Brodin pretty tight, but they eventually got in between us and Brodin. Then it was just me and [Ennis], and I stopped to pull up beside the cop to tell him that we left [Brodin] behind, then [Ennis] ran right into the back of me. So we made it like two hours and 30 minutes on the road without a crash, then we had one right on the intersection [in front of Xcel Energy Center].
"So, we gotta go check the cars [after the game]. We didn't even really have time, we just ran in."
With the late arrivals, many of the players likened the experience to being a kid and showing up to the rink just before a game.
"You're just like a kid [again]," Dumba said. "You show up, parents were running late at work or something, you gotta step out and play. We did a good job of it."