In late July 2020, Andrew Heydt conducted a team meeting in the Edmonton bubble. It was days before the NHL season resumed, and the Minnesota Wild were about to play in the qualifying round, where the Vancouver Canucks eliminated them. The NHL issued 60-page welcome manuals to all 24 teams invited in the bubble. But Heydt, the Wild’s director of team operations and player relations, prepared a 13-page “A to Z” Hub City guide that he presented to the team.
Heydt’s guide covered everything Wild players needed to know about living in the bubble. It had information on everything from laundry service and WiFi to delivery drop-offs and dining services. Heydt worked around the clock for three weeks, preparing the guide to help acclimate the players to the bubble. His nightly sleep went from five hours to four to three.
“I had a spreadsheet with roughly 150 questions for the league. And last week Tuesday, 90 of them were still unanswered,” Heydt told Michael Russo on the Saturday before he published the story. “And last night at 1:30 in the morning, a day before we leave, I finally got my last question answered. The league’s been great, but just think of what we’re trying to pull off here. This should have a year to plan something this complex, and the league and each team is doing this within a month.”
In late November, Heydt filed a complaint to the Wild’s human resources department that Bill Guerin had verbally abused him, according to Russo’s recent report. Minnesota’s HR department commissioned an outside law firm to investigate. Two attorneys traveled to St. Paul to interview more than 15 members of the organization. They have completed their investigation into Guerin’s alleged behavior and delivered the findings to upper management and ownership.
Wild management determined that Guerin had not committed a firable offense, Russo reported. Heydt has worked for the Wild for ten years and is popular among the players. Late last week, Elliotte Friedman said on his podcast that “one thing that I had heard that [Russo] hadn't written about is because this is a staff member who had a connection to the players. I'd heard some players were really upset about it. I don't know what the truth is; I'm not passing judgment one way or the other. I just know that I've been told some of the players were upset about it, and the Wild had to manage that.”
Furthermore, while Russo’s report indicated that Guerin would be able to move past this incident, Friedman’s sources indicate he may not. “I don't know that,” he said. “I don't have any reason to dispute Russo. I just haven't been told that same thing.”
There is a lot we still don’t know, and we’ll probably get follow-up reporting from Russo and national sources. But if Guerin’s alleged behavior is true, he has severely reprimanded someone who has gone above and beyond to serve the organization. Furthermore, news of the investigation comes weeks after Guerin fired Dean Evason after a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 26.
It also came a day after the Wild confirmed to The Athletic that they had “agreed to mutually part ways” with assistant general manager Chris O’Hearn. Team sources told Russo that it was coincidental that the two investigations concluded almost simultaneously, and O’Hearn was the subject of one of the investigations.
O’Hearn was initially excited to work for Guerin and ran Minnesota’s cap during the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts. Paul Fenton hired O’Hearn in his first and only year in St. Paul. Midway through Fenton’s 14-month GM stint, the late Wild assistant general manager Tom Kurvers called O’Hearn to let him know there would be an open position after the season. O’Hearn understood the implication. Fenton was going to move on from assistant GMs Andrew Brunette and Shep Harder. Such is life in NHL front offices. New GMs often want their guys.
In April, Fenton hired O’Hearn. But three months later, O’Hearn learned that the Wild had fired Fenton after a tumultuous 2018-19 season. O’Hearn and his wife, Ashley, had just bought a house and hadn’t set up their cable yet. “O’Hearn had a three-year deal, but he didn’t know if he too was about to be out of a job,” Michael Russo wrote in a February 2023 profile on O’Hearn. “After all, maybe the next GM would have his own cap guy.”
O’Hearn was crossing his fingers, hoping Guerin would get the job. The Wild hired Guerin, and he retained much of Fenton’s personnel. He removed Dean Evason’s interim tag and kept his coaching staff intact. Guerin didn’t make significant big front office changes besides bringing in senior advisor Ray Shero, director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett, and Iowa Wild GM Mike Murray.
“I am incredibly lucky that I matched up with a GM that really values me, and that’s incredibly rewarding, personally,” O’Hearn told Russo in February. “For me, right now, I feel like I’m in a sweet spot.
“If Billy’s doing this job 15 more years, I’ll take 15 more years of being his AGM, and I’ll be pleased as punch.”
Guerin has John Hynes behind the bench and will need to find a cap guy soon. He will also have to ensure that the front office imbroglio doesn’t affect the players, who are removed from the situation and must perform on the ice. Winning teams typically have a winning culture, allowing the players and coaches to focus on the NHL schedule’s daily grind. There is still a lot to sort out. But regardless of the specifics, one thing is certain. The Wild need a steadying hand right now.
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