I believe I've mentioned on this blog that I'm a Season Ticket Holder- so in a twisted way, I have physical proof, in the form of invoices reminding me politely to cough up a nominal fee on a monthly basis, that I have vested interest in the Minnesota Wild. For the most part I usually don't attend designated STH events (typically because they are scheduled during the work day) but I was afforded the opportunity to attend something fun tonight.
My lovely and talented Ticket Representative sent me an invitation a week or so ago to a VIP Cocktail Party at the Mall of America- this would take place before the final stop on the Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour, which is like your traveling caravan of players, media, and team personalities that stops in various cities in Minnesota. Players on this tour of duty were Cal Clutterbuck, Clayton Stoner, Colton Gillies, Brad Staubitz, Jared Spurgeon, and Marco Scandella- Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar, the TV guys were there, as was Wes Walz, who recently announced on KFAN that he would be taking a position with the organization in some sort of Community Relations role.
So my Dad (who I thought would enjoy the experience) and I headed to the executive office/conference area at MOA, and were told to grab a plate from a buffet table set up in one room before the "show" began. Excellent food- cuts of Roast Beef, Marinated Chicken Breast, rolls, salads, Spicy Green Beans; quite the spread. Also worth mentioning- FREE BUDWEISER AND BUD LIGHT.
The players/personalities were all mingling about; the crowd was kind of sparse- maybe 50-60 people or so, which meant some room to breathe. Just about every person of interest was engaged with fans, beer in hand, and went from table to table, signing pictures.
A few observations:
- Hockey pads do no justice to just how stocky Cal Clutterbuck is- dude is a plug. I have new appreciation for the guys on the receiving end of one of his hits.
- Jared Spurgeon is...just a little boy. There were teenage girls (who were on Cloud 9) who were taller- but you have to be impressed that Spurgeon is that small and succeeded in the NHL as a rookie.
- Both Marco Scandella and Colton Gillies (who was on the receiving of alot of on-mic chirping) look like they are still capable of adding 20 pounds. Tall, lanky kids.
- Scandella had a lot of insight into the foray into pro hockey; "its tough to stay focused night in and night out, for 82 games. It's something I must improve." Seems like he's got perspective, because he said he knows he still has to fight to get a roster spot. Also- he has long arms and HUGE hands. Easily twice as big as Greenlay's.
- Brad Staubitz was really gregarious and funny on the mic, talking about training and fishing in his spare time.
- Wes Walz is in just impeccable shape. Told a really funny story about how in St. Cloud yesterday he signed a jersey that he had when he was in Boston. "I thought my mom pulled it out of the trophy case. I had to think about the last time I wore #13."
- I'm not the biggest Dan Terhaar fan, but he, my Dad, and I shared a nice chat about Philadelphia's trades; "I almost crashed my car trying to refresh my iPhone trying to catch up on the news." On Ryan Smyth possibly going back to Edmonton: "I've talked to him and he's kinda odd. But I guess you got to be to want to go back to Edmonton...the Winter here is like Winter every year in Edmonton." Very nice guy.
- And the most vivid memory of the night, and one that I thought was super classy- my dad and I were playing the wall, discussing where to go have a beer after we leave the soiree- Clayton Stoner walks up on his way out (the players were starting to file down to the MOA rotunda for the public event) and stuck out his hand to shake ours and thank us for coming. I thought that was incredibly gracious of him to go out of his way to thank us, the fans, for coming out.
It just cemented my status as a Stoner fan.
Maybe the most eye opening part of this soiree was that here I was, at times to face to face, with the same players I root for at the X, and on the TV. But here they are, no helmet, no pads, no uniform. In human form- and I think at times this is something we forget about as fans.
We tend to get myopic and look at them for what they do for a living- a player. Nothing more, nothing less- when, off the ice, they are just like you and me- scarfing down free plates of food, giving each other shit, swigging down domestic beer; but I think we often lose sight of this, and that they are judged for what they do on the ice 82 games a year, and then some.
For a guy who spends a chunk of his time every Spring researching who the Wild will Draft each year, it is enlightening in the sense that we lose sight of the fact that these kids, who will hear their name called this weekend, are just 18- 18!. I found myself watching player after player talking with Greenlay and Terhaar in amazement, going "How would I have handled the position they are in when I was 21, 24, 28?" Nevermind being 18, and in the case of Jonathan Huberdeau, who just graduated High School, and it's mind blowing- could you imagine being in his shoes, where essentially every facet of your life and how you play the game is detailed and critiqued? At some point you lose your humanity, and gain asset/commodity status.
It really puts some perspective into fandom- and adds another layer of respect for what these players do, and how they go about doing it.