Great moments are plentiful for the NHL and Wild in January
The Minnesota Wild had an eight-game winning streak going into December, then fell into a funk, dropping five in a row including the Winter Classic on January 1 at Target Field to the St. Louis Blues. The Classic was a great event, including pond hockey, Minnesota sports legends, a Thomas Rhett performance and sub-zero temperatures (the coldest game in NHL history, in fact). Since then, they have regained their swagger in winning three-out-of-four games. Even in their most-recent loss, they got a point in Colorado with a late goal to send the game into overtime.
They won 3-2 against Boston, in which Matt Boldy who is the newest young gun for the Wild, scored his first NHL goal in Boston in front of lots of family, friends and coaches from Boston College, where he played his collegiate hockey.
In the Wild’s next game, they played the Washington Capitals and were trailing 2-0 when Capitals Left Winger, Carl Hagelin attempted to pass the puck out of the corner during a delayed penalty against the Wild and it ended up going the length of the ice and into the Capitals’ own net at the other end of the rink. Everyone on the ice for the Caps at the time, including Alexander Ovechkin, looked like their dog had just gotten ran over by a Zamboni. Wild Left Winger, Marcus Foligno, got credit for the goal, which was his 100th NHL goal. I’m not 100% sure, but it’s a good bet that he’s the first to get a milestone goal when he wasn’t even the last player on the ice to touch the puck. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.
You want more excitement and highlights? After the great comeback win against the Capitals, the Wild took on the Anaheim Ducks and easily beat them 7-3 at the XCel Energy Center. However, the highlight of the night, was not only Matt Boldy’s second-career goal, but just four seconds later after the ensuing faceoff, Mats Zuccarello scored yet again for the Wild. “The Lizard” took the faceoff and barreled through the Ducks D and ripped a shot past Ducks goaltender, Anthony Stolarz.
Which begs the question – who do you think felt smaller in their games against the Wild this month, Stolarz or the Caps’ Hagelin for the own goal? I’d have to call it a draw. In the Wild’s last game, they took on the Colorado Avalanche in Denver and lost in a shootout 4-3, after Kirill Kaprizov scored his second of the night with just 2:51 remaining in regulation. Nevertheless, the Wild put on a valiant effort and skated out with a point.
There have been so many highlights already in 2022 for the Wild. Aside from the games themselves, Kaprizov and goalie Cam Talbot were chosen for their first NHL All-Star game, Eric Staal signed a deal with the Iowa Wild and smiles can be seen across the State of Hockey as we get ready for Hockey Day Minnesota 2022 on Saturday, January 22 beginning at 9AM.
Sports fans in Minnesota had to endure yet another lackluster, disappointing, typically pathetic season by the Minnesota Vikings this past year. The Wild however, are the shining star in the North (hey, that has a nice ring to it – North star…hmmm). Cold temperatures have returned to Minny after brief relief, but after a rough stretch to end 2021, the Wild are just getting warmed up.
One Last Thing…
Though I usually loathe everything related to Boston sports, the Bruins had a nice moment at the TD Garden earlier this week when they retired #22 in honor of Willie O’Ree. O’Ree was the first Black player in the NHL, and made his debut on January 18, 1958. Often referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey”, he played just 45 games in the NHL over two seasons with the Bruins. What he did for the game and for BIPOC players however, is something that will be remembered forever. In my opinion, #22 should be retired for every NHL team, exactly like #42 in baseball.
He has done so much for the game of hockey, even off the ice, inspiring more than 120,000 kids to play the game and has worked with the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. He was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 and has been a diversity ambassador for the NHL since 1998. Furthermore, the United States Congress approved a bill this week to present O’Ree with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress. Other Gold Medal honorees include Martin Luther King Jr and his wife, Coretta Scott King, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Thomas Edison and more. Certainly, Willie is now in some pretty amazing company. Congratulations to Willie and a stick tap to the Bruins.