RICHFIELD – A day prior to the Alumni Game, the appetizer for the 2016 Stadium Series, former Minnesota North Stars and Wild players gathered for a final practice before taking on the Chicago Blackhawks alumni.
Having practiced a handful of times prior, the pace on Friday in the group's final tune-up was as high as it's been.
"The pace is four-times faster," Wes Walz said. "Not that it's anywhere close to an NHL pace, but we're going to have a lot of fun, try to put a show on for the fans, and see where it goes."
As coaches Lou Nanne and Tom Reid looked on, the players took their final indoor strides before the Saturday matinee at TCF Bank Stadium, where the North Stars jersey will once again make an appearance.
"Our biggest challenge is to see how long these guys can stay on the ice," Reid said. "Some of the guys were saying these 10- and 15-second shifts are far too long. We'll have to see if we can get them into a position where they're in shape."
It's a roster that, combined, has played thousands of games, scored thousands of goals, and played countless minutes.
"It's fun to be out here with the guys, it's fun to see the North Star connection," Andrew Brunette said. "It's a tribute to them and their time here in Minnesota. They put pro hockey on the map here.
"I grew up kind of watching all these guys, and to be able to play with them tomorrow on the ice will be real special."
Brunette and fellow Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson took part in the practice despite getting into Minnesota early this morning following the Wild's return from Edmonton. Reid was also on that charter, but the three made it out in time to be with the rest of the group.
"It's way better to be sweating and playing hockey than pushing pucks and coaching," Brunette said.
Reid, who is hosting a VIP event at his pub in downtown Saint Paul Friday night, was confident his locker room would be ready come puck drop.
"They have strict orders on our side," Reid said. "Louie and I havefl told them that they have to be in their rooms by at least 3 a.m. the night before a game. They should be well rested tomorrow."
Walz, within earshot of Reid, said he and his teammates have nothing to be afraid of.
"At least Coach Reid hasn't said anything about if we lose we're going to get bag-skated or anything," he said. "I have nothing to be nervous about unless that changes from now until game time. I hope if that's the case, he doesn't tell me until right before the game, because I don't want any extra nerves."
Reid wasn’t as lackadaisical with his approach.
"If they don't play well, we're going to stay late and bag skate them," Reid said.
What the Richfield practice did call attention to, and what will be a theme of the Alumni Game, is how two generations of players and fans will be united.
"What I like is the fact that we have a nice mix between Wild players and North Stars," Reid said. "They've really accentuated the North Star-contingent here, bringing in guys like Dino Cicerelli, and Tom McCarthy, and Willie Plett, and Craig Hartsburg, Neal Broten; it's great."
"But at the same time it's nice to have that flavor through the Wild of retired players. There's a little bit of familiarity with the fans from the Wild, and also the older people from the North Star days."
Here is the Alumni's projected lineup:
Tom McCarthy – Neal Broten –Dino Ciccarelli
Brian Rolston – Mike Modano – Brian Bellows
Antti Laaksonen – Wes Walz – Richard Park
Steve Payne – Bobby Smith – Willi Plett
Andrew Brunette – Mike Modano – Darby Hendrickson
Jack Carlson – Dennis Maruk – Tom Younghans