A pair of individuals from the Minnesota Wild will be pulling double duty over the course of the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series weekend at TCF Bank Stadium.
Andrew Brunette and Darby Hendrickson, assistant coaches for the Wild, will coach the NHL squad’s practice on Saturday afternoon at the outdoor rink, prior to lacing up their skates and donning North Stars sweaters for the alumni game at 4 pm.
“It’s going to be a crazy weekend,” Brunette said. “You’re helping run a practice on Saturday then get in your gear and play in a game, and still prepare for Sunday’s game.”
Hendrickson, a Minnesota native from Richfield who was named Minnesota Mr. Hockey 1991 and played collegiately at the University of Minnesota, shared the sense of excitement.
“I think the event will be, first of all, just so special because it’s the first time from the pro end that we’ve had it outdoors here,” Hendrickson said. “The combination of the North Stars and the Wild and just so many former great North Stars that I grew up witnessing playing, and just to be around them will be a thrill.”
Brunette, originally from Canada, has long held an affinity for Minnesota’s old NHL team too.
“I grew up in Ontario and with the old Norris Division with the North Stars and was kind of always a fan of them,” said Brunette. “They had the same colors as our junior team back home … and fell in love with Neal Broten’s game when he was playing for the 1980 Olympic team - so I watched them a lot.”
Brunette and Hendrickson love the idea of suiting up with former Wild teammates like Wes Walz, Robert Park, Brad Bombardir and Antti Laaksonen, but there is also a kidlike anticipation about being North Stars teammates for a day.
Former North Stars center Mike Modano is scheduled to center a line with Brunette and Hendrickson, but their enthusiasm about playing with some of the “more veteran” veterans is what really spilled over from them like too much Gatorade in a Dixie cup.
“I watched Dino Ciccarelli and Brian Bellows play junior and watched their game and respected them a lot,” Brunette said. “Maybe getting a shift with them, or on the same ice, and in the same locker room is pretty unique and special to me.”
Brunette also noted that Saturday, as much as he and his former Wild teammates will play a role, is all about celebrating the North Stars.
“I think it’s neat that I’ve heard people comment that just to see some of those guys in a North Stars jersey again, and you can go on and on with all those names, from Broten to Bellows to all the guys,” Hendrickson added.
“It’s just really neat in terms of that history. I think being back and being honored is a neat tribute for them.”