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Checking In From The Road: Day Three

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild

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 Joel Ward (right) chats with captain Keith Carney following Wild practice.
This week, I traveled along with the Wild for its three game trip through Northwest Canada. The original plan was to follow along with defenseman Shawn Belle during his first-ever NHL road trip.

Sure enough, Shawn was sent down to the Houston Aeros on Sunday, the day before we departed St. Paul for three Northwest Division cities, including Edmonton, which is Belle’s hometown.

So, we’ve changed on the fly. Wild.com will now offer a daily look at a seven-day road trip to give fans a look at what goes on in the air, at the rink and at mealtime. Each day, we’ll also finish up by talking to a different Wild player about a road trip related issue.

The team found itself in Edmonton on Wednesday, and unlike home, the ground here is covered with snow. Some might describe it as a “Winter Wonderland.”

Day Two

12:30 PM

The Wild actually got to practice in Rexall Place on Wednesday, as opposed to another venue. This is always the preferred situation for the Wild equipment staff, because it cuts down on the amount of equipment transfer from rink to bus to rink to dressing room.

I had my first encounter with an Edmonton great just after arriving at Wild practice. I met Oiler dressing room attendant Joey Moss, who is nothing short of an icon up here. If you watched any of the Edmonton playoff games last season, you could see Moss on television, standing behind the bench, and belting out the Canadian National Anthem. He’s also been featured in a local television commercial.

The other news of the day was Joel Ward getting called up from Houston. He arrived midway through practice, and then stayed after and pushed himself in some skating drills with Wes Walz. Ward was very excited to get his first call up, and you can read what he said below.

1:30 PM

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 When he’s not starring on camera, Joey Moss handles the needs of the teams during practices.
Jacques Lemaire can be a quote machine, and he always seems to break out his best material when a large media contingent is present. In Edmonton, there were no less than 10 writers surrounding Lemaire.

Edmonton writers have been extremely critical of the “style” of hockey that Lemaire preaches. Still, Lemaire was gregarious, and offered up a few one-liners like these:

“It seems like when we play a bad game, everybody chips in.”

“Even if I tell you yes (Fernandez is starting), it could change tomorrow depending on the weather.”

“A guy who scores five goals (in a season), you can get him 10. Just put him on the power play. Put him in the best situation possible. He’s going to get 10, and your team will be last.”

2:00 PM

The rest of the day is free time in lovely Edmonton. My original plan was to join up with video coordinator Ian Andersen and media relations guru Aaron Sickman and cab it to the West Edmonton mall. It’s supposedly the largest mall in the world, but we swear allegiance to the Mall of America.

With that in mind, we decided to walk to a strip mall, which we quickly tired of and retreated back to the hotel.

6:00 PM

For dinner, I joined up with Sickman, Ian Andersen and Chris Snow, the director of hockey operations. For the second time in three nights, we went with Joey Tomatoes. We fear change.

The Minnesota connection – Mark Parrish and Wyatt Smith – was also present, as was several members of the FSN North crew. The food was delicious, as was the play of Sidney Crosby against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Joel Ward had a hectic day, but he’d go through it any time to realize his dream. On Wednesday, I talked with him about the journey to the NHL.

Wild.com: You really took an amazing path to get here, going the Canadian college route and coming into camp as a tryout. What are your emotions right now?

Ward: When my coach, Rob Daum, called me, words can’t describe what I was feeling inside. It was just unbelievable when he told me there might be an opportunity to get a call-up and meet the boys in Edmonton.

When he finally clarified it with me and we got word from Minnesota, I got an early flight. I was calling home, and my family was pretty excited about it. It’s been a long few years, so to get to this point was unbelievable.

Wild.com: You actually came close to making the team out of training camp. Did you think that meant you would probably get called at some point?

Ward: I didn’t think about it too much. I just tired to work as hard as I could in Houston, and hopefully one day I would get a call up. I didn’t have any expectations of when or if I would. I just tried to keep working hard and hopefully things would work out.

Wild.com: It can be tough for a lot of guys to actually physically get to the team they get called up to. How was your travel day?

Ward: It was pretty early. I had a 4:00 AM wake up call. And, I got the news late last night and it was pretty hard to sleep. I flew from Houston to Denver, and Denver to Edmonton. It was tough, but it’s where I want to be so whatever it takes, I’ll do it any time of day.

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