NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Ryan McDonagh #27 of the New York Rangers checks Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I'm not sure if you guys remember, but a few years ago the SB Nation hockey websites paired up and did a Q&A session during the offseason to help break up the dog days of August. Back in 2009, our partner was Hockey Wilderness, SB Nation's Minnesota Wild blog.
We got Hockey Wilderness, SB Nation's Minnesota Wild blog. And you know what? That's not a bad thing. We still have Marian Gaborik, they just took Zach Parise away from the New Jersey Devils -- thanks for that, by the way -- and also added Ryan Suter to boot.
It's an exciting time over there, so we asked a few questions. Below the jump you will see a couple of my questions in bold and Bryan's answers below them. If you head over to his site, you will see his first couple of questions and my answers. Part two will run tomorrow.
Anyway, join me after the jump and make sure to head over Bryan's way and see my answers (as if you don't hear from me enough). Just note my story will be going up on Hockey Wilderness at Noon central time, which is 1 p.m. here.
1) Minnesotta is supposed to be a hot-bed of hockey. But it's often looked at as a "smaller market team" what's the truth here? Is it a small market team with a loyal, but small fanbase? Or a huge fanbase that doesn't get enough national attention?
1. Minnesotans like two things - making a big deal about their love of hockey, and playing the underdog. The Twin Cities are a small market in every major sports league... except the NHL. We are something like the 15th largest media market in the US, the Wild have every game broadcast on TV, merchandise sales are always near the top of the league, we have a building that can seat 20K+ for hockey & ticket sales remained strong even when they were terrible. We are not a small market when it comes to hockey, but people here are programmed to believe we are, because of the other three leagues present here.
The problem is, Minnesotans love hockey, and there is a ton of hockey to be had here. Nearly every high school has a boys & girls team, we have 5 division one men's programs, and a matching number of women's programs. Add in the effect of the North Stars moving, and I am convinced the NHL is still trying to regain their fan base here. For example, Minnesotans aren't afraid they are going to miss hockey if there is a lockout. We just have to exchange our time from NHL to college or high school hockey.
Long answer longer... the truth is somewhere in between. We have the original "Hockeytown, USA" (Warroad, MN), the fans here are hockey crazed, we are not a small market, but we also are not locked into the NHL. So, it's both. It is a small but loyal fanbase with the potential to have a massive fanbase. If Wild fans lost the passive aggressiveness built in to being Minnesotan, we would likely rival Philadelphia in our lunacy.
2) The Wild have awesome uniforms. Yes, I'm aware this isn't a question.
2. They really are. It is definitely not a uniform set that you can be middle of the road on. It is either love or hate. I always love the "Christmas tree" remarks about the red home sweaters. Have you ever seen a red Christmas tree? Wouldn't the green thirds make a better Christmas tree? Oh well. They continue to be voted in as near the top of the league whenever there is a vote, so obviously someone likes them.
3) Were you aware that two of the Rangers' brightest young stars -- Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh -- are from Minnesota? Are the Wild current sketching their master plan to also land the two of them the same way they did with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter -- convincing them to play hockey at home? Because you can't have them. Rangers fans would become like Liam Neeson in Taken and find you.
3. We are keenly aware of where all Minnesota born hockey players are at all times. We are given tracking divices at birth so we never lose contact with the mothership. They also have a recall device built in. One push of a button by the folks at Minnesota Hockey, and we come running back.
Seriously, though, Minnesotans like to think that every Minnesota born player, or anyone who has ever played in Minnesota, wants to come to play here, and that Minnesota born players are somehow better than other players. The provincialism makes me sick, and it will only get worse now that Zach Parise signed here. I wouldn't worry too much about those two signing here, unless of course the Wild actually start to win. The Parise & Ryan Suter signings will be a solid experiment in how Chuck Fletcher builds a team. If it works, maybe every Minnesota boy will want to be here. Who knows.
If it does happen, somewhere down the road, remember that I really don't care where the players are from, and I am more than willing to negotiate.