This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Wild Magazine.
Defenseman Nate Prosser, an Elk River native, is currently in his eighth year as a member of the Wild organization. We caught up with him to learn about his family, his charity work, and how his life has changed since he first put on a Wild jersey in 2009.
Wild.com: You're now in your eighth year as a member of the Wild organization. How has life changed for you since your first season?
Nate Prosser: When I first started playing pro hockey, I didn't have kids. It was just me and my wife, and we were down in Houston for a year and a half, and we had a great, great time down there. Those were some of our funnest years, just because of the weather and getting away from the Minnesota winter. We loved being down there. Then kids happened, and that's been an absolute ball. We have three girls now; they're four, two and five months, and I wouldn't change anything for the world. They're great. Now I get home from the rink and it's, "Okay, daddy, let's go play, let's go for a bike ride, let's go jump on the trampoline." Before kids, I'd get home and we'd go to a movie, just me and my wife, or take naps, do low-key dinners, that sort of thing. Now life's changed.
W: In 2014, you left Minnesota during free agency only to be reclaimed by the club in October. What was that process like for you? Did you find that you were happy to return home?
NP: That was a whole crazy thing. I signed with St. Louis at the end of July, I went down there at the end of August and skated with the team for a month or so. I got to know the staff and the players, and it kind of felt like I was part of a new team. All of a sudden,I get put on waivers. I was out at practice and the GM, Doug Armstrong, calls me off the ice and says, "You've been claimed. We don't know by who yet, but you've got to get your equipment off." So I take all my equipment off, just thinking through all the different teams in the league. I'm thinking, "Man, where could I go? What am I going to do?" Lo and behold, it's the Wild. It immediately brought a smile to my face. I got back here and my locker was in the same spot. It was like nothing ever changed; it was almost like I signed with Minnesota that summer instead of St. Louis. Getting back in the locker room and seeing everyone smiling, giving me a little hard time about it was fun stuff.
W: With three young daughters, you're the only man in the house. What is that dynamic like?
NP: Oh, man. Honestly, I don't believe in jinxes, but going into kids, I told everybody, my wife and all my family, all I make is boys. So it's kind of weird how God was like, "No, you don't, here's three girls for you. This is the way it's gonna be." It's kind of goofy how that all worked out. I was expecting to have hockey sticks and footballs and basketballs around the house, playing catch, that kind of stuff. Now it's Elsa and Anna [from the movie "Frozen"] dolls and dollhouses and princess dresses and makeup, doing all the girly stuff. It's a whole new element for me, but honestly, it's the best. I could name you every Disney princess. We took a trip to Disney World at the beginning of the summer, and just seeing my girls smile from ear to ear was a great time.
W: What activities and hobbies are your kids involved in? Have you convinced any of them to play hockey?
NP: My older daughter, the four-year-old, we've got her in skating lessons now, just one day a week in Stillwater. She likes it, and she's actually getting really good. She's starting to take little strides and everything. My two-year-old wants to follow her older sister, so we sometimes get her into skates and let her kind of walk around out there. She loves it, too. Also with the four-year-old, we've got her in soccer once a week. The four- and two-year-old are in swim lessons. They go to Pre-K Mondays and Wednesdays. We have some busy girls. We like to keep them busy just because it's nice to get direction from other adults and get them around other kids. They have to know how to share and how to communicate with other little kids and parents. I think that's a big step in every kid's life. We're trying to get them in all the sports in the hope that they narrow it down to their favorite couple sports and we can roll with that. If it's not hockey, it's not hockey. My wife plays basketball and tennis, so I would love that. I would love for one of them to be a golfer just because that's a good activity for me in the summer. A daddy-daughter date out on the golf course would be really nice.
W: When you're on the road for so much of the season, how do you juggle family time with staying mentally prepared for the games ahead?
NP: It can be very hard at times. ... Every road trip, my oldest daughter says, "I'm gonna miss you, daddy," and she almost has tears in her eyes and it pulls my heart out of my chest. But that's part of the job. I always try to bring back a little treat for them so I can earn their love when I get back. If I have some Skittles or Starbursts, all is forgiven. It's hard, but I've got a rockstar wife who is a great stay-at-home mom that takes care of them really well. You've gotta find the balance of it. When I'm home, I get away from the rink and try to turn my brain off from hockey and be a dad and be a husband.
W: What is your favorite way to spend time away from the rink?
NP: A lot of my buddies are around the area. I grew up in Elk River, so my buddies still live pretty close, near the Maple Grove area. Getting together with them and having card night and watching football is always fun to do. We do a lot of other random stuff together, like tailgating at the Vikings game. Getting together with the guys is always fun.
W: Tell me a bit about your charity work with United Heroes League, Children's Hospital, and Wishes & More.
NP: I try to get involved with Wishes & More quite a bit. They help out terminally ill kids that have a wish that they want. It doesn't necessarily have to be making it to a Wild game. Maybe they always wanted a four-wheeler. So [Wishes & More] tries to get money to get the boy or girl a four-wheeler. They do a great job with that. Seeing some of the stories really touches you. Anything involving children --I try to make it down to Children's Hospital when I can -- it hits home, because when you get home and see your kids, you could only imagine what it would be like if one of them had something. Even with the [Jacob] Wetterling story, you pray that none of that ever happens and you pray for the people that have that happen to them that God can somehow give them peace. I also get involved in United Heroes League. That's another thing that touches me is people that sacrifice for our country. The military, they're the heroes, and I'm always willing to tip my cap and do whatever I can to help that organization.