Sometimes, Minnesota Wild games mean so much more than wins and losses or getting out to the Xcel Energy Center to have some fun. For one brave hero serving in the United States Armed Forces, a Wild game gave him a reminder of what home really is.
Steve Connelly, a Wild season ticket holder since Day One, emailed his ticket representative to share his story. It was so amazing and touching, we felt it had to be shared with the rest of the State of Hockey as a reminder that the players on the ice aren’t the only people deserving of our adoration. Please take some time each day to think about people like James Connelly.
Story Number One -- Mid-October 2005
James had seen a lot of death and injuries since early February 2005 when he was first deployed to Afghanistan. Even though the news doesn’t report on it too well, 2005 was the bloodiest year ever since we first invaded the country in 2001. James had many close calls himself.
However, on this one occasion in Mid-October, one of his men in the mortar crew suffered a gunshot wound to the head. This unfortunate soldier, not only a well-respected gunner but also a good friend to my son, died in my son’s arms while James tried whatever he could to save him.
This bloody scene, as you may or may not be able to imagine, would be depressing in itself to most anyone. What made it all the worse was the fact that my son wanted to escort the body back to the states, but because he was not a Sgt. at the time, he had to stay behind.
A day after the fatal shooting, my son was sent on another dangerous multi-day mission. Upon returning from this mission late at night, he found himself still a little depressed, very tired and extremely hungry. He went to the room where they serve food and also have a satellite television. On the TV -- on the only channel that comes in -- was the Armed Forces Network. As fate would have it, a Wild Game was playing on that channel at that time.
James, still in his combat gear, filthy and hungry looked up from his plate of food and at that very minute in time, cameras turned to me in my seat. James was awestruck. The opportunity to see the Wild was great in itself. But the one-in-a million chance of him being in that room, having the Wild on that channel and having the cameras focus on me at that exact point in time he said was like a Guardian Angel was watching over him and the episode swung his mood in the opposite direction.
Story Number Two -- Last few days
Very recently, James was moved to another undisclosed base which gets lot of action. While there, in his spare time between long and arduous missions, to provide himself with a little piece of home, he decided to draw the Wild insignia on the door to his new and very small and sparse quarters.
He didn’t know he had any drawing talent, yet as you can see from the photos below he did an admirable job. The toughest part he said was trying to get green paint where he is now located! It’s five degrees below zero at night where he is. Considering it’s colder there than here this year, I would imagine that this special Wild logo makes this extremely rugged and desolate part of Afghanistan the "second state of hockey!"