ST. PAUL -- For Matt Hendricks, the chance to play pro hockey at home is more than an opportunity to continue his NHL career: It's a dream come true.
The former Blaine Bengal and St. Cloud State Husky inked a one-year contract with the Wild on Sunday, signing up for a 10th season in the League.
"We grew up with the North Stars, and if anyone would have told you you'd put a North Stars sweater on and go play for your hometown team, you'd be excited," said Hendricks, 37. "That's kind of where I am; the Wild came in, I think it was my freshman year at St. Cloud back in 2000. They've been around awhile now, and I've been following them. I've got a big smile ear-to-ear."
Hendricks has never been a big scorer in the NHL. His five goals and 13 points in 60 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season were the best numbers he's had in three years. The best offensive season of his career came when he scored nine goals and 25 points for Bruce Boudreau in Washington.
Where Hendricks provides his weight in gold is in the dressing room, on the ice in practice and with his versatility.
Wild General Manager Paul Fenton acknowledged Hendricks could be deployed as the team's 13th forward -- a role that potentially limits how many games the veteran might play in.
One thing that is for certain is the team won't get short-changed by his attitude or effort, even in that scenario.
"You never want to be comfortable with it. At my age, I've started to become that kind of role player, but it's my job to show up at practice every day and push guys for opportunity, push guys for ice time," said Hendricks, along with his wife Kim has 6-year-old twins, a boy and girl named Gunnar and Lennon. "You want that internal competition. It's not a hidden agenda by any means; we want everybody pushing as hard as they can, and that's my personal goal, is to get in and try to earn an opportunity as I can.
"But on the reverse side of that, I totally understand when younger guys beat me out for those minutes, beat me out for ice time and I'm gonna have their back 100 percent."
Fenton noted Hendricks' character as a big reason why the Wild wanted to bring him home.
"The character that he brings both on and off the ice and being a local guy from here that can have that influence on our younger players was really a critical part that we identified awhile ago and we're very happy to have him on board," Fenton said. "We've already had the conversation that it might not be a (playing) every night thing, and that's fine. We never know ... what the health of our team is gonna be, so you can say whatever you want on July 1st but at the end of the day let's just see how our lineup plays out here."
Video: Paul Fenton on character of Matt Hendricks
It always helps when a player who fills that role is as versatile as Hendricks, a left winger who can play center in a pinch. A nearly 53 percent winner in the face-off circle for his career, Hendricks can kill penalties, plays a physical, defensive game and can even drop the mitts from time-to-time.
"I'm just trying to do my part," Hendricks said. "I try and be the jack-of-all-trades and do anything I can to help the team. A lot of that has to do with the way you show up to the rink every day at practice, as well, and trying to better ourselves each day so we're putting ourselves in a good position by the end of the season."