Share This Page

Big splash for small-market Wild

| Monday, July 9, 2012, 8:36 p.m.
Minnesota's Ryan Suter, left, and Zach Parise are introduced during a news conference Monday, July 9, 2012 in St. Paul, Minn. (AP)
New Minnesota Wild NHL hockey players Ryan Suter, left, and Zach Parise are introduced during a news conference Monday, July 9, 2012 in St. Paul, Minn. The two signed 13-year contracts with the Wild for $98 million. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota never has been “flyover country” to Zach Parise.

The star forward grew up here, honed his hockey skills here and built a house here to make sure his roots remain in Minnesota for the long term.

Yet even in hockey-mad Minnesota, where the passion for the sport may only be rivaled by the country on its northern border, the Twin Cities always has been considered a medium-sized market that doesn't have enough sizzle to lure the biggest names in the game.

When Parise and fellow blue-chip free agent Ryan Suter decided to sign matching 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Wild, part of their aim was to turn Minnesota into a destination for the best pros in the league.

“At the end of the day, hopefully, with Ryan and I coming here, good players want to play with good players,” Parise said Monday when he was introduced with Suter at a news conference. “Hopefully, that helps influence some people.”

There's a chip on the shoulder of sports fans in these parts who have grown tired of being overshadowed by the big cities and seeing their teams passed over time and again.

So to see a team in their state score the two best players on the free-agent market — and spend a ton of money to keep them away from the deep pockets in New York and Chicago — stood as one of the bigger days in Minnesota sports history.

“Free agents of Zach and Ryan's caliber are often attracted to the major markets where there is more attention, brighter spotlights, and frankly, more money,” owner Craig Leipold said. “These two chose Minnesota over those things and, in doing so, they have transformed our franchise. We've all walked a little taller since July 4.”

The goal is to keep that swagger going. The Wild lost the only other true star the franchise has had when Marian Gaborik left in 2009.

Since then, the Wild have spent good money on winger Martin Havlat, who never fit in with the team and was traded to San Jose, to extend center Mikko Koivu and keep the franchise building block from leaving and added Dany Heatley in a trade last summer.

But nothing like this. Parise, the captain of the New Jersey Devils, was the most sought-after forward on the market. Suter was the most prized defenseman available. And the Wild got 'em both.

“This,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said, “just takes it to a whole new level.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.