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Bouchard visits with old teammates after practice in Montreal

Former Wild winger played with several of the team's current players during a standout 10-year career with the club

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

MONTREAL -- When the Wild arrived for practice at the Bell Centre on Sunday, there was a familiar face lurking in the bowels of the arena near the dressing room. 

For the first time since his final season with the team in 2013, Pierre-Marc Bouchard was present for a Wild practice. With the team in town, and Bouchard and his family living full time in the area, equipment manager Tony Da Costa gave him a call and invited him down to the arena.

Bouchard, who still ranks among the franchise's top five in games (565 - third), goals (106 - fifth), assists (241 - second) and points (347 - third), will watch his first Wild game from the stands on Monday when the team takes on the Montreal Canadiens. 

Video: Catching up with Pierre-Marc Bouchard

"When I come here and see the guys and watch practice, I miss it quite a bit," Bouchard said. "Some good [memories] about Minnesota and the Wild, so it's good to be back and see some of the guys."

Drafted eighth overall by the Wild in the 2002 NHL Draft, Bouchard broke in as an 18-year-old rookie during Minnesota's memorable 2002-03 season. He played 10 years with the team, three times eclipsing the 50-point barrier and becoming the first -- and so far, only -- Wild player to record 50 assists in a season.

During that time, he established himself as one of the best players in franchise history and certainly one of its most talented playmakers.

Bouchard played nine seasons with current Wild captain Mikko Koivu, including the 2004-05 lockout campaign with the Houston Aeros, but also serves as a bridge between the franchise's early years and with its current core. 

Bouchard played one season with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin and Mikael Granlund, parts of two seasons with Jason Zucker and three seasons with Jared Spurgeon.

"It's awesome. I have some great [memories] with those guys, and to be able to see them and talk about the old days, it's really fun," Bouchard said.

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After leaving the Wild in the summer of 2013, Bouchard signed with the New York Islanders and played one season there, skating in 28 games, before taking his talents across the pond. 

He thrived for two seasons in Switzerland, scoring more than a point per game both years he played with EV Zug of the Swiss National League A, before retiring from hockey at the age of 31 in 2016.

After sustaining what he once estimated as three concussions in his years with the Wild, and with a young family -- including a pair of daughters, now 2 and 6 years old -- Bouchard decided to step away from the game while he was feeling good physically.

Video: P-M Bouchard goes to spin-o-rama for SO goal

"[The League] has changed quite a bit, the guys are so fast out there," Bouchard said. "When I played, the small guys used to be the fast ones and the bigger guys were a little bit slower, but that's not the case anymore. Everybody can skate." 

Although he still looks like he could lace up the skates and score some points in the NHL -- he is just 34 years old -- Bouchard says he plays more tennis now than he does hockey.

"Just during the winter. We have a pretty nice outdoor rink where we play some games with our friends," Bouchard said. "If I play hockey, I want to get back on the ice and play competitive hockey, so I'd rather stay away."

Wild games aren't on television much in Quebec, but when they are, he says he's a regular viewer. He watched Minnesota's wins against Toronto and Ottawa at the start of the current road trip, and he hopes to see another one in person on Monday at the Bell Centre, which will be the first time he sees a Wild game from the stands.

"Minnesota was a second home for me and my wife when we were there," Bouchard said. "I was there for 10-plus years, so we have great [memories] about the State of Hockey and I wish I could get back, maybe during the playoffs this spring."

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