When the Minnesota Wild season began, it appeared certain that the Wild would have to utilize at least one rookie defenseman this season. But the names that were often rumored were Marco Scandella
, Nate Prosser
and Tyler Cuma
. We should have remembered Justin Falk
, who saw some action in Minnesota last year as a callup. After an impressive camp, Falk earned a spot in the Wild's top six, and has been one of the team's steadiest players and a shutdown defender.
Falk is also one fo the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, and he was excited to get the chance to answer questions from his fans. Of course, some of his friends were able to get their questions in as well, and Justin was quick to recognize those when they were asked. See if you can find out which questions came from "Juicer's" inner circle.Terry, Montevideo
What are some things that rookies have to do that veterans don't?
Every level that you move up, it gets better and better. In the NHL, basically all you have to do is pick up pucks after practice. Other than that, they take pretty good care of you at the NHL level. I'm enjoying it here, and the guys treat me really well, so I feel right at home here.
Did you have to change your style of play at all when you became a pro?
I didn't really have to change it. I just had to kind of take some things out if that makes sense. In junior, I played a bit of power play and contributed offensively. But here I just really gear down on my defensive game and try to be a shutdown player.
Does it feel any different being with the Wild this season compared to last season?
As a matter of fact, yeah it feels a lot different. Eight games into the season, I feel like I've developed a good relationship with the guys here. I feel like I'm part of the team. Last year, it was a temporary callup and I was nervous. Here, the game speed feels right up to par. I feel comfortable and I'm excited to come to the rink every day.
Who are some players in the League that you try to model your game after?
Growing up I always wanted to play like Rob Blake and throw the big hip checks and be good with the puck offensively with a big shot. But once I became a pro I kind of changed into more of a Robyn Regehr style, trying to be physical, rugged and hard to play against.
Kristina, Apple Valley
What has been your favorite moment or memory so far in the NHL?
Going to Finland was quite the experience because it was my first overseas experience for hockey so that was fun. But that home opener was probably the best moment so far. Lining up along the blueline wearing an NHL sweater with the Wild was a great feeling.
Chelsea, Spokane, Washington
Do you think winning the Memorial Cup with the Chiefs greatly affected where you are now in your hockey career?
Yeah, that has been the best year of hockey I've ever had in my life. It was so much fun to be on a winning team and winning a championship. Not many guys are fortunate enough to do that. Plus, the relationships I built with friends and teammates there, it was quite the experience. Everybody has to work hard to learn what it takes to win a championship, and I'm one of those few that's been able to hoist that trophy. I found out what kind of effort is needed and how gruesome it is to make it through parts of the playoffs and get to the finals and win.
Josh, Apple Valley
What's the best prank you've ever pulled on someone?
I'm not much of a prankster, but more of a guy in the background that watches everything. The leaners (a garbage can filled with water tilted up against an open door) in the hotel rooms or the water cups under the helmet when a guy grabs it to go out for practice are always good. But the best is probably the cup in the skate, so when the guy grabs his skate its filled with water for the rest of the day.
Alexis, Inver Grove Heights
Have you had any pranks pulled on you since you came to the team?
No, everything has gone smoothly so far, but there's a lot of hockey left to be played. There's a lot of practices and days...you can already look around the room and see the guys you have to keep an eye on.
What's your most embarrassing on-ice moment?
I was in Milwaukee in the playoffs two years ago and playing for Houston. I was on kind of a neutral zone regroup and I turned back at the top of the circles to face up ice. I blew a tire and went down face first on the ice. The puck went right to Bryan Smolinski and he shelfed it, so that's my most embarrassing moment right there.
Alyssa, North Branch
Got any nicknames?
In the locker room, it's usually just "Falker" or "Falky." But for the boys back home, it's "Juicer."
Bri, North St. Paul
How's life in Minnesota going so far? Any huge adjustments?
Life's pretty good. When you're doing your dream, you can never complain. Every day I get up and go to the rink and I get to play in the National Hockey League. It's a great feeling.
As far as adjustments, no there hasn't been anything big. I'm living at the hotel here and I'm running out of restaurants to try, but it could be a lot worse. Being from Manitoba, I've made trips down here. I've been to Twins games and Valleyfair and the mall. I've seen all the attractions before, and now it's just getting out to stretch the legs. Walking down by the river the other day was nice.
Mike, North Branch
Will the Vikings make the playoffs?
I'm going to say no. But Brett Favre finally aired one out over 10 yards there at the end of the last game, but the call got overturned in end zone. But it's good to see he can still stretch the shoulder out a little bit. If he's throwing the ball like he did there, they might have a chance.
Robert, Houston, TX
What do you miss about the Houston Aeros?
(laughs) Well, the weather is starting to cool down here. It's pretty nice there, but I miss a lot of the guys there and a lot of close friends that I still keep in touch with. I'll develop nice, close friends here, too. But in hockey, you meet a lot of guys and you move on from a lot of guys. But the close ones, you like to keep in touch with.
Not counting the Wild, what team has the best jersey in the NHL?
The old Bruins Bobby Orr jersey is a nice one - the one they wore in the Winter Classic there.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Well, right now it's kind of lying in bed and watching TV. In previous seasons in Houston, we liked to golf or dine on patios in the nice weather. Right now it's walks and spending time with my wife and enjoying every moment being up here.
Tyler, Morden, Manitoba
I hear your neighbor played an instrumental part of you becoming a pro hockey player. What was it like growing up next to someone you admired so much?
(laughs) Oh boy. I actually do give that guy a lot of credit. In the crucial years of my hockey career when I was 16 to 18, he was a guy that worked out with me every day. He got me out of bed on days when I wasn't feeling it, and he pushed me to do that extra sprint when you were ready to tap out. Swatter is a great friend, a great guy and I'm very thankful for him.
Yellow mustard or Grey Poupon?
I have no idea what Grey Poupon is, but I hate mustard. I'll take ketchup.
Can you get me Cal Clutterbuck's autograph?
(laughs again) Who wrote that one? Your best bet is to write him a letter.
Bill, Snowflake, Manitoba
Who was the most dangerous pitcher-catcher battery in Manitoba junior baseball history?
Definitely me and my cousin/best man in my wedding/best friend. I was the pitcher and he was the catcher. We stirred things up and caused a lot of drama, but we also got a lot of wins, so it was a lot of fun.