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Benn ready for return to site of hilarious holiday memory

Longtime former Dallas Star was compared to cartoon character, wasted little time exacting revenge

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

New Wild defenseman Jordie Benn remembers the night well. Maybe too well.

It was Dec. 21, 2015 and Benn's Dallas Stars were in St. Paul for a pre-Christmas matchup with Minnesota. The Wild led 2-0 late in the second period and fans at Xcel Energy Center were in a great mood.

Near the end of a TV timeout, with Benn leaning on the Stars bench, his teammates - as well as almost all of the 19,000 in attendance - began laughing as a photo of Benn and one of Yukon Cornelius, of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" fame, were shown on the video board.

Even down a couple of goals, Benn couldn't help but crack a smile. 

Sure enough, less than a minute after the action resumed, it was Benn who was howling. The defenseman wired a wrist shot from point and into the net, snapping a 33-game goal drought in the process. 

"I don't usually watch the video board, I'm usually focused on the next shift. I don't know what I was doing, but then everybody just started laughing," Benn said. "I forget who nudged me, but he said, 'Look up at the Jumbotron.' And it's Yukon Cornelius up there."

The comparison to "Yukon" wasn't a new one for Benn, who had been called that before by his buddies. Even his girlfriend - now fiancee - Jess had pointed out the resemblance on several occasions. But it was the first time an opposing team had made light of it so publicly. 

Tweet from @Ryan_Carter22: Let���s go, Yukon!!

Benn acknowledges he found it hilarious at the time, especially so in the moments after the goal.

"I think I'll always remember that," Benn said. "It just happened that Minnesota put that up there and I stuck it to them on the next shift. That was pretty funny. It was perfect timing."

Benn's tally turned the tide in that game too. Dallas scored three times in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the second period to take a 3-2 lead into intermission, before scoring three more times in the third in an eventual 6-3 victory. 

It was a victory for the Stars that didn't come easy. Few trips to St. Paul did, he said in a conversation with on Thursday.

It's one of the reasons he was so eager to sign a one-year contract with the Wild last week, and join a club he has long played against.

"It's one of the things I'm most excited about is having fans in the building again and being on the right side of the Minnesota fans," Benn said. "It was always tough going into that building and playing because those fans really get boys going. I'm excited to be on the right side of that this year."

Former Stars teammate and another new Wild defenseman, Alex Goligoski, helped sell Benn on Minnesota and a chance to join a revamped blue line, where the veteran will compete with Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill, Calen Addison and others for a chance at regular playing time on Minnesota's third defensive pairing.

Training camp commences later this month, and Benn has plenty to do before arriving in Minnesota in a couple weeks, including finding a place for he, Jess and their one-year-old daughter, Billie Ann, to live. 

Benn is just one of many new faces on the club for the upcoming season. He admitted he had to do a double take last week when he scanned the names on the roster.

"I looked at the roster when I signed there and I said, 'What happened to all the guys I remember playing against?'" Benn said. "It's pretty crazy, but it's a fun time. A lot of young guys, a lot of good hockey players and it's exciting to be a part of it."

Part of that surprise came from playing exclusively in the North Division last season. Benn began the year in Vancouver, where he had inked a two-year contract the summer before, before a trade deadline deal sent him to Winnipeg for the final handful of games.  

Because the Canadian teams didn't cross the border at all during the regular season, Benn said he became tunnel-visioned on what was happening north of the border, really only keeping tabs on those teams and Dallas, where he and his family live in the offseason, and where his brother Jamie is the Stars' captain.

"I'll be honest, besides the Canadian teams, I had no idea really what was going on around the League," Benn said. "It was like we were off on our own. It was a weird year. We were concentrated on the Canadian teams and that's all I really looked at."

Benn brings additional size and grit to a Wild blue line that has been in desperate need of it over the years. Quietly, he's been one of the more productive defensive-defensemen in the League over the past several seasons, consistently posting plus campaigns while remaining a durable - and affable - veteran presence. 

In that regard, he should fit right in with the team's new personalities.

"[Goligoski] said the guys here seem great, and it's a team I've watched a lot over the years and played against quite a bit when I was in Dallas," Benn said. "I've played with a lot of guys from Minnesota and they always talk about it being such a nice place. I thought it'd be a good opportunity to go to a new team and a new city that everyone talks really highly of."


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