I hope all of you enjoyed Hockey Day Minnesota as much as I did. As I was watching one of the high school games being played in Hermantown, I thought about one of the first emails I received after posting my first “Owner’s Box” blog. A fan wondered why I wanted to become the owner of the Minnesota Wild after already having owned a team in Nashville.
I point to a day like Hockey Day Minnesota in my answer to that question. With absolutely no disrespect to the wonderful hockey fans that cheered the Predators on, the passion for hockey here in Minnesota is unrivaled. When the opportunity to own an NHL team in a hockey hotbed like Minnesota came about, there was no way I could say no. Days like Saturday are what it’s all about. Is there anywhere else in the country that something like this could happen?
I watched those high school kids do their interviews during and after their games, and you could see in their faces that they knew they were a part of something special. I think that feeling carried over to the Wild players. Sure, we don’t have any native Minnesotans on the roster, but they know how lucky they are to play in front of so many passionate fans at Xcel Energy Center. I heard that the broadcast was on in the locker room prior to the game and all of the players were caught up in the atmosphere as much as we were.
Switching gears, I’d like to tackle a couple more subjects that were brought up in some email submissions.
A couple of fans wrote inquiring about the new members of our ice crew at home games. But they didn’t really ask about the ice crew. They pretty much said, “Oh, so you have Ice Girls now like everybody else.”
Well, not exactly. If you’re comparing the new members of our ice crew to promotional Ice Girls that you might see in some other NHL markets, then no, that’s not what we’re doing. Yes, we now have men and women working on the crew that clears the ice during time-outs, sets up carpet for ceremonies, helps with pre-game and intermission activities. There are men and women and kids of all ages in Minnesota who play the game of hockey, and who probably at one time or another, grabbed a shovel to clear their own home rink or the rink down at the neighborhood park where they were playing with friends.
So, if women and girls can play the game next to the guys around here, why can’t they be a part of our ice crew? I have not met all of them, but I understand that the girls on our ice crew are all pretty good hockey players. Call me crazy, but that seems like a good fit for the State of Hockey.
Finally, another hot topic that fans have asked about is the number of concussions affecting our players. Obviously, we first and foremost are looking out for the long-term health of our players. Professional and major college sports have come a long way in diagnosing and treating concussions. The NHL is being very proactive, engaging some of the best experts in the field to help to build a new plan around diagnosis and treatment.
We’re taking this very seriously; not just because Wild players have been affected, but also because the more we know about it, the better we can prevent and treat them in the future.
Brent Burns is back on the ice now, which is terrific. We look forward to having Pierre-Marc Bouchard back on the ice as well, but we’re going to heed the advice of medical professionals and let the healing process progress to a safe point before we put any player at additional risk.
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