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The Official Site of the Minnesota Wild

Wild Dudes

by Todd Smith / Minnesota Wild

When the Minnesota Wild signed veteran forward John Madden this offseason, there was a lot of buzz about Madden’s pedigree for winning.

He has won three Stanley Cups (two with the New Jersey Devils and one last season with the Chicago Blackhawks), won a NCAA Championship with the University of Michigan, set an NCAA record for most shorthanded goals (23) in a college career, and has been a finalist for the Selke Award (Best Defensive Forward) multiple times.

But there was a subtle story line about the Madden signing that was grossly over looked. Immediately after the Wild signed Madden, he was unavailable for comment because he was…scuba diving in Hawaii!

One can imagine how the scenario unfolded: Madden was freshly removed from hoisting the greatest trophy in all of sports for a third time. He headed off to some pristine tropical beach to relax. His cell phone rang. He’s stood there in wet swim trucks, a snorkel and flippers dangling in one hand, the cell phone in the other. In the shade of a palm tree he agreed to the terms of his new hockey deal. He hung up, took a swig off of a cold beverage and dove back into the water to swim with some turtles.

The point I’m trying to make here is that not only is John Madden an outstanding veteran addition to the Minnesota Wild, but he is also one the greatest dudes in the history of the NHL.

This offseason, Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher went into the free agency market looking to obtain players with what the regular sports vernacular would deem as “character players” or guys that had strong work ethics, camaraderie in the locker room, and the ability to fight through the brutal slog of the 82-game regular season.

In layman’s terms, though, Fletcher just wanted some more dudes on the team, and hockey, more than any other sport is filled with them. The sport itself is a case study in dudeity: Stitches between periods, the blocked shot, and the Gordie Howe hat trick.

The origins of the game are simple: “Hey, dude, that river is frozen. We should skate on it. Do you have a puck?”
The wacky traditions are endless, as well. Look no further than the playoff beard, which is now a cultural phenomenon. In fact, LeBron James even tried to bogart the tradition to the NBA.

Most importantly, hockey history has always been filled with dudes of epic proportions: Reg Dunlap’s hilarious locker room speeches; Mark Messer’s accurate prediction that his New York Rangers would win Game Seven in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then, he went out and scored the winning goal all the while dating Madonna in her prime; From Dave Snuggeruud’s hair to Bobby Nystrom’s stache to Patrick Kane’s Playoff Mullet; Heck, I got two words for you right now: Cal. Clutterbuck. Nuff said.

In short, hockey abides to a different code. So, in honor of the Minnesota Wild’s Tenth Anniversary season, takes a look back at the best dudes in Wild history.

Jim Dowd - This guy only wore pads because he had to. His shoulder pads, breezers and shinnies were ridiculously too small. His Mini-Mite size gear was tied together with strings and prayer. Dowd also took his gregarious dudeified off-ice personality and applied it to his game.
Who can forget Dowd’s signature offensive move? He would slowly carry the puck into the offensive zone on the wing. As he carried the puck, Dowd would seemingly be moving in slow motion, as if on a Sunday stroll. He’d practically hold conversations with his teammates and the other team’s bench.

He would eventually make it down to the corner and curl around the back of the opponent’s net. Dowd would then emerge unscathed in the opposite corner with the puck and move up the far boards and back into the neutral zone as if he forgot to do something with the puck. That dude could roll.

Greg Zanon - The NHL has always adored stay-at-home dudesman, er, defenseman. They carry the load; keep the moral up and soldier on. In just one year with the Wild, Zanon has proved to be that dude. Last year, he blocked 196 shots, was second on the team in hits, and logged over eighteen minutes a game.

More than that, though, he instantly raised his dude cred by playing a large chunk of last season on a shredded ankle. His status as the Minnesota Wild’s current dude-in-residence has been reinforced with wicked awesome red facial hair and a hilarious online campaign. A story on “The Bleacher Report” was titled “Chuck Norris Fears Greg Zanon.” And “Zanonisms” have popped up on various other hockey websites that include such catchy phrases as “Greg Zanon was what Willis was talking about” and “When Greg Zanon tells Owen Nolan to smile, he smiles.”

John Madden - Although he hasn’t played a single minute for the Wild yet, Madden is a shoe-in for this list. The guy grew up in public housing in Parma Court, Toronto. As a youth, he played in something called the Victoria Village House League. As an amateur player, Madden never played Major Junior hockey in Canada and was passed over in the 1993 draft.

But he duded on and played for the Barrie Colts of the COJHL and scored 124 points in 43 games. That earned him a scholarship to the University of Michigan where he blossomed. He anonymously moved to the NHL and proceeded to win three Cups. In Game Five of the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, Madden suffered a nasty injury to the face that required 16 stitches between periods.

He returned to the game bruised and battered and let out a primal howl of dudeness when he hoisted the Cup in victory. (Note: This moment is immortalized in a glossy photo on my Dude Wall in my house.) Also, he earned major dude points this off season when he brought the Cup to the pediatric unit at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey. He was greeted by bagpipers in kilts and T-shirts that said, “Got Cups?”

Brian Rolston - First, this dude had a monster slap shot. So much so, that he routinely made goalies fear for their safety. During a game in the 2006-2007 season, Rolston dropped a bomb on Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo’s face that left him dazed for several minutes. Later on in the same game, Rolston skated in on a penalty shot against the spooked out Luongo and instead of giving the goalie a typical dipsy-doodle move, he reared back and launched a slap shot – a move that was unprecedented at the time. Luongo flinched, naturally, and the puck nearly tore through the net.

Second, Rolston had some awesome soul patch action that made him look like an indie rocker, which, of course, he was. After scoring the winning goal for the Boston Bruins in front of 17,000 fans, Rolston got up on stage with legendary Boston band The Dropkick Murphy’s and played guitar on a few songs.

Wes Walz - If there was a photo to go with an article titled “Why Hockey Players Should Wear Face Masks” that would help illustrate the damage pucks and sticks could do to a players face and mouth, Wes Walz’ carved up face would do nicely.

His mug has about a thousand stitches in it that were all earned the hard way. Walz had an unrelenting work ethic, one that drove him into the trenches of the sport: the corners, in front of the net, and into the grills of a legion of much larger opponents.

All that aside, though, Walz earns the top spot because of this fact alone: He is the team’s all time leader in short-handed points and second in even-strength points. In dude speak: Walz tied the whole team together.

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