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Best Wild Week Ever

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild

 Pierre-Marc Bouchard celebrated his highlight-reel goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
My father always told me, “Quit holding your fork like a shovel, and eat like a normal human being for crying out in the night.”  That advice never quite took. But, another nugget he always told me was, “Son, don’t ever let two road losses obscure the fact that November 6 through November 12, 2006 will be the Best Wild Week Ever.”

You know what? He was right. He is very wise. It’s ironic that my dad said that, because last week turned out to be “Take Your Dad To Work On A Six-Day, Three-Game West Coast Road Trip Week,” and it was the Best Wild Week Ever. A total of 23 fathers of Wild players and staff took part in the road trip, which was highlighted by a visit to Universal Studios, a fishing excursion and another shootout win on Saturday night.

It all amounted to the Best Wild Week Ever, and if you don’t agree, I’ll refer you to Len Boogaard, who will be sure to put you in your place.

Note: much of what you are about to read is sourced from a splendid article written by the Star Tribune’s Mike Russo, and a photo gallery provided by Bruce Bisping. The story can be read here, and the photo gallery can be viewed here.

Monday, November 6, 2006

The father-son road trip actually kicked off at the Xcel Energy Center on Monday morning with a group photo at center ice. This provided the first opportunity for the fathers and sons to meet and greet for the first time.

Following the group shot, everybody retreated to the Wild locker room for individual shots of fathers and

 Pavol Gaborik and his,, no that’s Bob Naegele, Jr., not Marian Gaborik.
their sons. The only problem was that Marian Gaborik was in Vancouver, receiving treatment on his injured groin. Never fear, Wild chairman Bob Naegele, Jr. stood in for Marian with his father, Pavel.

The team then took off for San Jose, and held an afternoon practice at the HP Pavilion. According to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune, head coach Jacques Lemaire yelled at the fathers in the stands, “Put your skates on!”

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Wild dads donned their son’s red third jerseys and took up a couple rows of seats in the HP Pavilion of Tuesday night’s game with the San Jose Sharks. The patriarchs didn’t get to do a lot of cheering, considering the Wild lost 3-1, but I’m sure more than a few high-fives were exchanged when a purple-haired Wild fan bought each of them a wheat-flavored beverage.

Unfortunately, the only time the Wild sons exchanged high-fives was when Todd White scored late in the first period to cut a San Jose lead to 2-1. The Sharks clicked again in the third period and went on to defeat Minnesota, 3-1.

The dads had better pick it up if they want to be a part of the Best Wild Week Ever.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Without a game for another three days, the Wild players were given the day off on Wednesday to head to Universal Studios with the dads. Insert your “you be quiet or I’ll turn this team bus around and nobody will go on any rides” joke here.

The kids and their dads had a blast, taking in rides such as “The Revenge of the Mummy,” which Brent Burns rode seven times, “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic Park.”

Gene Parrish, father of Mark, told Russo, “Boy, this is a blast. Mark might be a lot of things to a lot of people, but he’s still my kid. And we hang out all the time.”

The night ended with a group dinner at Buca di Beppo, which is famous for the biggest dishes imaginable.

“There was way too much food,” said Bob Foster.
Thursday, November 9, 2006

There are worse places to spend three non-game days than Huntington Beach, which is where the entire group stayed at a posh resort near the ocean. Some folks relaxed by the pool, like Pavel Demitra, Pavol Gaborik and Matija Radivojevic, who strolled around in matching white terry-cloth robes.

Bob Snow, father of Wild director of Hockey Operations, Chris Snow, dubbed the trio, the “Slovakia mafia.”
Friday, November 10, 2006

While the Wild squeezed in one more practice before facing the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, the dads went fishing.

Not surprisingly, it was Rochester resident Mark Sickman, father of Wild media relations guru, Aaron Sickman, who turned in the prize catch of the day. He hauled in a 2.5-pound grouper, and yes, that was the biggest catch among the group.

It’s a good thing the dad’s weren’t responsible for catching dinner on Friday night.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

 The dads of Wild players and staff watched warmups on Tuesday, and had the Best Wild Week Ever. cr. Bruce Bisping of the Star Tribune.
It was finally game time again on Saturday in Los Angeles, where the Wild took on the Kings for the third time already this season. It took some time for the Wild to get used to playing hockey with sunburn, but after overcoming a sluggish start, Minnesota escaped from L.A. with a shootout win.

Brian Rolston woke the boys up by blasting a power play goal late in the second period. That was followed up in the third period by Kurtis Foster’s perfectly placed slap shot off of Rob Blake at the side of the L.A. net. Mike Cammalleri tied the game midway through the third, but all that did was set up another automatic win for the Wild in a shootout.

This one didn’t play out as it normally would. Mathieu Garon actually stopped Mikko Koivu, probably because he didn’t use the forehand-to-backhand flip. Manny Fernandez actually surrendered two goals in the shootout’s six rounds. But, still, the Wild just doesn’t lose shootouts; so Rolston, Petteri Nummelin and Todd White picked up the slack to give the Wild its sixth win of the season in a shootout or overtime.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dad Week ended on Sunday night, and it wasn’t the ending the father’s had hoped for. The Wild took on those mighty Anaheim Ducks, and as usual, it was a one-goal difference. This time, it fell in the favor of the Ducks despite two goals by Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has scored all three of his goals this season at the Honda Center. In fact, he’s the only Wild player to score at the Honda Center this year.

Niklas Backstrom made his first-ever NHL start, and it was a solid outing. He stopped 35 Anaheim shots, but let three in for the loss.

Don’t worry about it Niklas. You’ll find that you can’t stop every shot in the NHL, and you can’t win every game. However, you can come to the conclusion that even a 1-2-0 record won’t diminish the Best Wild Week Ever, especially for those…

…Who Had Best Wild Week Ever?

 One of these gentlemen is Mikko Koivu, and the other is one of 23 fathers having the Best Wild Week Ever. Guess which is which.
Wild dads. This is a no-brainer. They rose before the sun to drive their kids to rinks more hospitable for polar bears. They offered encouragement as their sons chased dreams that very few realize. They spent a fortune on hockey equipment, hockey schools, gas, hotel rooms and whatever else.

We certainly can’t discount the mom’s and their roles, which were often the same, if not more demanding. But, as Mark Parrish said, bringing the mom’s along for a week would be “kind of weird.” This week was about father-son bonding, because no matter what age they are, guys need that. Haven’t you ever seen Field of Dreams?

So, the Wild dads are on their way back to their wives, but before they tell stories about Universal Studios, the charter plane, the bus rides, the meals and the fishing trips, let’s offer them one more tip of the cap, and the distinction of enjoying the Best Wild Week Ever.

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