Alright, I admit it, I can be a bandwagon fan for the Wild. However, in my defense, you need to protect yourself from letdowns when you’ve been a Minnesota hockey market fan for as long as I’ve been.
I remember watching North Star games with my dad in our musty basement. Having him time me with how fast I could run upstairs and get him another Grain Belt and bring it back down to him. I believe 4 seconds is my record. When Casio digital watches were the thing, my record creeped up to 4.3 seconds.
Damn you, technology.
I saw Bobby Smith’s ridiculous goal against the Calgary Flames where he took an offensive zone draw, won it to himself, and deked through the bewildered Flames defense to score the goal.
I watched every single televised Team USA game in 1980 and was excited to see who would join the Stars the following year. I watched every game of the 1981 playoff season, only to be disappointed with the 5-game series loss against the New York Islanders. I listened in horror in 1992 to KQ when it was announced that they were moving to…Dallas??
Where am I going with all of this? As I watch this season, I can only come to one conclusion: just tank, baby.
We all know that this team will not, I repeat, will not win the Cup this year. With the cap hit against us for next year, in 2024-25, too. I don’t know why ownership and leadership have to sell us this notion of “competitive rebuild” when we can all see that we do not have the pieces to win it all.
At least not now. Will we? I believe so. With players like Kirill Kaprizov, Brock Faber, Matt Boldy, Jesper Wallstedt, and Marco Rossi here. And Danila Yurov, Marat Khusnutdinov, Carson Lambos, and Liam Öhgren on the horizon, why not add a couple more top-10 prospects?
I believe that GM Bill Guerin knows what it takes to build a team. He’s been in locker rooms to know pretenders from the real thing. All the haters out there are just projecting their frustration with how things have been going since the buyouts. From what I’ve heard, good riddance. I also believe that part of the fanbase’s frustration is because of the history of letdowns this market has had to go through.
And also the fact that this fanbase, arguably the most knowledgeable fanbase in the league, is aware of the BS they are trying to tell us. “Competitive rebuild,” come on, Wild.
This market attends squirt, mite, high school, and college games just to root for their kids. We play in adult leagues because we love the game. We’ll still come out and watch as you go through the last half of this season and the next just to see the new kids play. We’ll want to show them that we are and always will be, the best hockey market in the league.
We enjoy watching our kids get better year after year. The same is true for our newest talent that you draft and develop. That includes talent on other teams. This team has a lot going for it: great venue, great metro area, great fans.
Just tank. Be sellers at the trade deadline. Send Marc-Andre Fleury to Pittsburg or New Jersey. Get what you can for him. Frankly, it’s been awesome having him here and getting to No. 2 on the all-time wins list.
See what you can get for any of those guys not named Faber, Boldy, Wallstedt, Rossi, and Kaprisov, and bring up the kids to play the rest of the season. Give them the experience they need to play at the NHL level and let’s watch them grow. Having a couple of top 10 talent wouldn’t hurt either, would it?
And so, as I sit here watching another Wild game with my granddaughter, a blooming hockey fan, I wonder how much longer I will have to wait to celebrate a Stanley Cup championship.
I would certainly like for her to enjoy a franchise that is somewhat consistent every year so that she can become that hardcore fan who can enjoy every high and loathe every low.
“Hey, sweetie, can I ask a favor?” I ask.
“Sure, Papa!” she replies excitedly.
“Would you go get me a bottle of Sprite from the fridge, please?” I inquire.
“Will you time me?” she grins wryly.
Leaning forward on my chair, I yell, “GO!” while pressing the start button on the stopwatch. Running upstairs with a huge grin, I hear the thumping of feet on the steps, the door of the fridge opening, the noise of what can only be described as an elephant charge across the ceiling, and back down the stairs arrives my granddaughter. A bottle of Sprite in her hand stretched out to me.
“Time!?” she shouts.
As I press the button on my Dad’s old Casio watch, the screen reads “4.2”. Cheering ensues.
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