With the Minnesota Wild taking the ice for the first time Thursday morning at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul, general manager Bill Guerin confirmed Wednesday that the team will go into training camp with a 100 percent vaccination rate.
This will allow the Wild to return to a sense of normalcy. Though players aren’t required to be vaccinated, per NHL rules, life will be more challenging for unvaccinated players this season.
“I think everybody’s just ready to get back to normal,” Guerin said. “It’s been a grind for everybody. There’s been a lot of moving parts the last 18 months, maybe more. It’s been a lot. I think everybody’s excited. I had a meeting with the guys today and it was nice to have everybody in the room. Nobody had to wear a mask or anything like that. It was good. We’re all moving forward.”
As for training camp itself, Guerin is pumped to get going. It was a busy offseason for the Wild featuring a bevy of moves, most notably releasing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, and most recently signing Kirill Kaprizov to a massive new contract.
Now the Wild will get to see the finished product.
“I’m ready,” Guerin said. “It always comes fast. You’re always like, ‘Man, I could use another week of summer.’ Not this year. I’m ready to go. I’m excited about this group. This is a great time of year. You miss the game. You miss the excitement.”
Asked about the decision to allow NHL players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Kaprizov excitedly expressed his feelings through a translator, presumably adding a quip about Team USA at the end of his answer.
Though it’s unclear exactly what Kaprizov said through a translator, it was enough to get Guerin going. Remember, he’s the assistant general manager of Team USA, meaning he will help select the American roster.
“We are coming after you guys,” Guerin joked to Kaprizov. “I know what you said.”
All jokes aside, Guerin said he’s thrilled NHL players will get to participate.
“It’s such a great opportunity for everybody involved,” Guerin said. “There’s nothing better for a hockey player putting on the jersey for your country whether you are American or Russian or Canadian or Finnish. It’ s a big honor. I think everybody’s looking forward to it. It will be a great experience.”
After an incredible rookie season, Kaprizov was widely considered a lock to win the Calder Trophy after last season. And he won the award by a landslide, garnering 99 of 100 first-place votes from the Professional Hockey Writers Association, the highest percentage of first-place votes in Calder Trophy balloting since 1992-93.
How did the 24-year-old find out that he won? Well, he said he got a text message from Aaron Sickman, director of media relations for the Wild.
“He text me saying, ‘You won Calder Trophy,’ ” Kaprizov said in English. “I sit at home with my parents, and I say, ‘Parents, I won Calder Trophy.’ We cheered and shared drinks. Just drank beer. Nothing more.”
Asked what he has in store for an encore this season, Kaprizov shifted the focus back to the team.
“I think of course the organization wants to win the Stanley Cup,” he said. “Now we need to work every day and every game.”