I’m a Minnesota Wild fan, so when I say I have a certain expertise in finding something to love in even the most mediocre teams, Wild fandom is my credential.
A lot of people who consider themselves hockey fans have a distinct, “Oh right, that team” glaze-eyed reaction when I say I’m a Wild fan. I know that look because it’s the one I make when someone tells me they’re a Columbus Blue Jackets fan.
You don’t want to say, “Oh, that’s lame” because that’s their team and you’re not a complete a-hole, but you also know nothing about them because they’re never relevant.
So, to get you up to speed if you’re one of these folks, the team has a new coach in Mike Yeo this season after two really lousy seasons under Todd Richards, and one really lousy season under Jacques Lemaire.
Yeo was the coach in Houston last season, so I got to know his style both on and off the ice, and I’m a huge fan. Smart hockey guy, swagger out the wazoo, and the most keen instinct for managing the people around him of anybody I’ve ever met.
He just knows how to push the right buttons to motivate, comfort, or inspire. Heck, he even used his magic on me a couple of times and by the end of the season, I would have run through walls for him as willingly as any of his players.
But now he’s up with the big club and, after a 5-game win streak, the Wild are back to looking like they did the last 3 seasons: Like they only give about half a crap.
So I watch and I wonder, how will Yeo get them going? How do you make a team get the level of “hard” required to win consistently?
How do you get them amped to battle on the ice when the off-ice life of an NHLer is, at least relative to other leagues, very very comfortable?
I have some ideas for reminding the guys that if you want the NHL lifestyle, you better earn it by “paying the price physically” as Yeo said last night:
- No more fancy hotels. I kept seeing shots of the JW Marriott there by Staples Center where they were beat 5-2 (and it wasn’t that close) by the Kings last night. But I’m sure there’s a Courtyard Marriott with perfectly acceptable beds somewhere nearby that’s more appropriate for the team’s effort level in that game. Enjoy your hardwired internet, ya sissies!
- Dress and drive to all practices. Like 6-year-olds.
- I never saw any “rough parts of town” in Minneapolis or St. Paul when I was there, but I’m sure they’re there, and the boys should all have to live there. Keep ‘em on their toes, maintain a bit of an edge that living in the comfortable suburbs or well-appointed downtown condos can’t provide.
- Give ‘em all beater cars to drive. You want your BMW? Then you freaking go into the dirty areas and maintain possession of that puck!
- Make them sleep on pillow cases imprinted with Yeo’s stern face.
- Have an apology circle after each loss, where each guy admits his screw-ups and apologizes to the team. Marek Zidlicky gets to go twice.
- Go to an actual store to buy your suits. Losers schlep their firm butts to Men’s Wearhouse. Winners get the Suit Guy in your locker room.
- Exploding breezers that literally catch on fire if you aren’t playing hard enough. Yeo has his finger on the trigger, so you better work, Scorchass!
I’m sure the NHLPA has rules about some of this stuff, but a girl can dream right? Some nights, my team just doesn’t deserve the fluffy comfort that NHLers are afforded.
I want them to suffer a little for how I and my fellow fans die a little inside every time they fail to show up for a game.
Speaking of which, I hear the bus system in Los Angeles is pretty good. Maybe the Wild should take that to their game against the Ducks this afternoon.
Then at least if they don’t show up this time, there will be a reasonable explanation for it.