Greetings from the Wachovia Center in a rainy, suburban Philadelphia. But, as I mentioned to all the players last night while we were awaiting our bags on the tarmac -- rain is better than snow. A couple disagreed.
It’s a big day here, as Niklas Backstrom was just named to the All-Star team. Josh Harding ran across the locker room to give him a big hug shortly after the announcement was made public. I’ll be getting Backstrom on with Kevin Falness this afternoon for a PONDCast (the link is over there to the right), and Pierre LeBrun with ESPN.com has requested a quick interview with him, too.
Both writers talked to Backstrom and Doug Risebrough. Backstrom was his typical self, deflecting praise on his teammates, but he said it was quite an honor. Even though he was a star back in Finland, he never played in an All-Star game.
We also received Backstrom’s All-Star jersey, and we did a photo shoot with him and the jersey, and also goalie coach Bob Mason, for Wild.com (that's over there to the right, too) as well as the local papers and FS North. We found out late last night that Backstrom would be an All-Star, but had to keep it a secret until noon EST today. The jersey was sent to Zack, the head of PR for the Flyers. Josh Harding, who loves to kid with Backstrom, jokingly asked equipment manager Brent Proulx if he could move his locker away from Backstrom. A couple guys were calling him “Mr. All-Star.” Everyone is super happy for Backy.
Mikko Koivu, who many in the media thought was a shoe-in for an All-Star nod, did not get an invite. But with every team having to have a representative, quality players are going to be left out. Today is about Backstrom making it, not Koivu’s snub. And I have to think that if anyone drops out due to injury, Koivu would be one of the first replacements.
It was an optional skate today, with many veterans not taking the ice and instead doing some video work.
Guys are pretty happy and loose after the two big wins to start the trip. I arrived to the locker room this morning, and someone (I believe some of our trainers/equipment guys) had written some lines on the board, as a joke, of former Wild farmhands, etc. Included in the list are names you may not have heard such as Brendan Yarema, Marc Cavosie, Travis Roche (who did see some games in the NHL). Always good going down memory lane. Funniest was the “injured list,” if only because it included one of my good friends, Cam Stewart.
Last night was … interesting. But aren’t our trips always? One of our players didn’t realize we were leaving after the game for Philadelphia, so he left his bags in his room in Boston. We didn’t have time to go back to get them after the game and before the flight, so I started wracking my brain for ways to get the bags to Philly. After much debate, it was decided Stephane Veilleux would bring them with him today. Steph, who missed last night’s game with the flu, flew commercial to join us this morning so he could get some more rest. I was worried they wouldn’t let him on the plane with two big bags and two carry-ons, but I haven’t heard anything from him, and his flight should have taken off by now, so I guess things are OK. I’ll reimburse Veilleux for the money he had to pay for the extra bag, and I’ll try to snag him a Tom Reid’s gift certificate, too, for his troubles.
The flight was also crazy, with a fairly big winter weather storm in the Northeast. Screening took five minutes -- for nearly 40 of us. In fact, it was so fast that we had to wait a bit for the bags to be loaded. The crew -- from the major airline we charted -- was great, but I was happy to have August, of our own charter company, on board to tell them how the “Wild likes it.” They wanted to have food out already, but in a case where we want to take off quickly, that’s not very good. So August took very good care of us.
The pilots decided it would be a casual flight, and left the cockpit door open for anyone who wanted to look out the front. That was interesting. We were also forced into a holding pattern for 30 minutes due to the weather, so the flight was 1:45, a long time for Boston to Philly.
We arrived to torrential downpours. They were short on crew on the ground, so I, along with Benoit Pouliot, helped the guy in the belly of the plane unload bags. Benny and I both realized that we were under an overhang and much drier than everyone else!
That’s it from Wachovia Center. I have a cheesesteak (or two) with my name on it this afternoon and evening.