Minnesota Wild fans will most likely remember Cody McLeod from his days playing for the Colorado Avalanche. His finest hour from this chippy rivalry came during a game in 2015 when the Wild had a 3-1 lead with eight seconds left in the match. Players were on edge most of the game, and Colorado head coach Patrick Roy decided to put his fourth line out for the final faceoff of the game.
McLeod lined up at wing, landed a cross-check on Wild center Mikael Granlund right after the puck was dropped, then went after Charlie Coyle. The two took part in a fight, although Coyle never actually dropped his gloves. As the referees ushered McLeod off the ice, he chirped the Wild bench, riling everybody up. Then a barking match ensued between the benches. The message was clear, they didn’t like the way the game ended, and the fight was just another way of saying we’re going to get revenge; this isn’t over.
Call it what you want, cheap, dirty, whatever, but McLeod was doing his job -- making life hell for young Wild players. So it’s a bit weird that his career has gone from tormenting the last generation of young Wild players to shepherding the next generation.
On May 14th, 2021, the Iowa Wild gave Cody McLeod the captain’s patch on his jersey for the first time in his career. In his 16th year of professional hockey, fans thought that game would be the last of his career, so the Wild gave him the C. However, the Iowa Wild re-signed McLeod to a one-year deal, and this will presumably be his last professional season. At the start of the 2021-22 campaign, McLeod was named full-time captain of the Iowa Wild, with Kyle Rau, Mason Shaw, and Dakota Mermis as his assistant captains.
McLeod is a tough, hard-nosed enforcer who never backs down from a fight. “He brings grit, energy, and passion to the rink every single day,” Colorado general manager Joe Sakic said of McLeod after re-signing him to another contract in 2014. Over 776 NHL games, McLeod racked up a whopping 1,630 penalty minutes. To put it another way, he spent 27.17 hours in the penalty box during his NHL career.
A Binscarth, Manitoba native, McLeod went undrafted and attended several pro camps. The Colorado Avalanche signed him in 2007, and he would end up playing ten seasons in Denver. In his rookie season, McLeod would become the first Avalanche player to record over 100 penalty minutes. In a playoff game against the Red Wings, McLeod first gained recognition when he grabbed an octopus off the ice, taunted the Wings bench, then proceeded to throw the octopus back in the stands. Throwing an octopus on the ice is a tradition in Detroit, but the officials usually take the sea creature off the ice. You can imagine Colorado fans’ delight when they see their No. 55 grab the octopus and toss it back to the fans at the old Joe Louis Arena.
An aspect of hockey that is most beloved by fans is the fighting and physicality. If you know of Cody McLeod, you’ll know that he was involved in many hockey fights during his career. He would end up with 159 altercations in his 15 years in the NHL. His most notable fights came against Ryan Reaves, Adam McQuaid, Patrick Maroon, and Milan Lucic. As an enforcer, McLeod’s job was mainly to stand up for his teammates when he felt they received a dirty hit. He would often chirp his foes at faceoffs, then as soon as the puck dropped, the gloves came off, and the fights began.
The Cody McLeod the Iowa Wild got is the same one you remember from the height of the Wild-Avs rivalry. McLeod made his debut for the Iowa Wild and recorded his first assist for the team on Oct. 6th, 2019, and has been a fan favorite ever since. With his hard hits and rough style of play, it’s hard to deny that the Baby Wild fans love him. In four games for the Wild this season, he has registered one assist and 21 penalty minutes.
Say what you want about that style of play, but his leadership matters. “It’s hard to place an exact value on the intangibles a player like Cody brings up,” Nashville Predators general manager David Poile says of McLeod. “He’s so vocal. His presence in the locker room is unbelievable. He steps up and does whatever he’s asked to do.” Enforcers are typically the emotional leaders of their team, which is evident of McLeod if you watch any of his games.
The role of enforcer is easily the most feared by opponents, but they are also the most beloved teammates. As a young player, knowing you have a guy on your team who’s willing to stand up for you is everything. Just ask the Wild locker room what Marcus Foligno means to them. They help keep the game in line and ensure no one is playing the game the wrong way. You may have hated him for what he did to the previous generation of the Wild, but be glad there’s someone in Marco Rossi and Co.’s corners.