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Alumni Gather To Shake Rust, Find Shape

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Tom Reid wears many different hats around Minnesota.

Some nights, his hat is actually a headset as he's doing play-by-play for Minnesota Wild hockey games on the radio.

Other nights, he's wearing his proprietor hat, and making sure things are operating smoothly at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub. 

Reid's newest hat (which will actually require a physical hat) and title to go with it is coach as he assumes the position leading the Minnesota North Stars/Wild alumni team against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"More than anything, I want to see what kind of shape these guys are in," Reid said before a group of alumni practiced at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday. "Whether they’re round like some of us are, or whether they're still in good shape."

With the Alumni Game less than six weeks away, the anticipation that comes with it goes hand-in-hand with the fear of not wanting to get embarrassed.

"Still lots of conditioning left," Andrew Brunette said. "There are a lot of guys out there, so we'll split it up."

But it's players like Brunette, Darby Hendrickson, and Mike Modano whom Reid cited as capable of bearing a greater workload because of how frequently they still skate.

"I hope I stay in the coach's good books; I don't want to be benched already," Brunette said. "I'm going to be extra nice to him."

Reid said he's still in the information-gathering stage before he comes to any big decisions.

"I’m working on video right now and systems and everything else," he said. "Once I do that, we’ll be ready to go."

It's a game that, unlike the Stadium Series matchup the following day between the Wild and Blackhawks, won't count in the standings.

That doesn't mean that pride, and one's health, aren't on the line though.

“Don’t get hurt is the number one goal, and don’t land on my head or something and go to the hospital at three o’clock," Neal Broten said. "It’ll be fun, we’ll let the puck do the work, we’ll pass the puck, everybody knows how to play, so it’ll be awesome.”

The goal between now and Feb. 20 is simple: Get the gears and legs churning at a high enough pace to be ready come puck drop.

"The mind thinks it can do some things, and the body doesn't allow it," Brunette said. "And actually even when I played it was kind of like that when I was in my prime. Maybe not much has changed."

Everyone has his own regimen for getting ready, while the group practices serve as a good barometer for how much work one has left to do.

But between Reid, and assistant coaches Lou Nanne and Mike Ramsey, players also have their off-ice homework.

"I just think it’s more beer," Brad Maxwell said. "(I've been) getting on (the ice) once a week right now and the scary thing is I'm working out and drinking protein shakes and I'm eating better. It’s scary."

As for how the game itself will look that was harder to handicap, or even joke about. It's a day that will be more fun than the entrée that will follow in the form of the Wild-Blackhawks game, but a game that will be taken seriously nonetheless.

"The pace is going to be really fast at the beginning, and then it's going to slow down really quickly," Walz said. "Nobody wants to lose. We're going to be out there with NHL logos on our chest, and it doesn't matter if you're 70 years old, or 45 years old: If you've played in the NHL, and you have one of those logos on your chest, you're going to play for pride."

As for the specific hat Reid will wear behind his team's bench, he's not positive what it will be yet — ("They’ve got toques for us. They’re really pushing the 'N' from the North Star days," he said) — but he knows keeping warm will be of the utmost importance.

"I have been told by Dan Craig, the guru of the ice surfaces in the National Hockey League who puts this all together that there will be plenty of heat on the benches so I don’t have to worry about that," Reid said. "But I’ll be dressed to the hilt with warm clothes and lots of layers, and maybe something extra in my pocket just in case I get cold."

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