Hello and welcome! My name is Jake Ford and I am a huge Minnesota Wild fan. I am originally from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, but currently attend the University of Minnesota as a sophomore going into my junior year in September. In February, I started working in the athletic communications office here at the U, which is why I’ll be spending my summer here. Hockey has always been my favorite sport with soccer being a close second growing up. Soccer eventually got old and baseball and football took over as my second favorites. I am a fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics, but that’s where my loyalty to New England basically ends (with the exception of the Revolution, I suppose).
I grew up as a supporter of the Bruins, Avalanche, and Kings, but when I was eight or nine I decided that I wanted a fresh start with a new team that I could be even more devoted to because hockey was always my favorite sport. This was around the time the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild organizations were starting to take shape. I thought the Blue Jackets’ name and logo were pretty cool and that meant a lot back then, but I decided to go with the Wild because of their fan base and beautiful new arena (even though I thought I might never get a chance to go there, growing up on the East Coast).
Since then, I haven’t regretted it for a second. Despite a recent run of mediocrity, I remain optimistic in the team’s chances to win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime. In the mean time, it’s nice to be able to look back to 2003 when the Wild came back from two 3-1 series deficits, with thrilling overtime victories in Games Six and Seven against Colorado. I’ll never forget the hysteria that ensued after Richard Park’s OT winner at the Xcel Energy Center or the expression on Andrew Brunette’s face when he scored the last goal of Patrick Roy’s career in overtime of the following game. I’ll never forget looking at my ESPN Mobile phone after a tough loss in a high school hockey game to read that Marian Gaborik potted five goals and an assist in a win against the Rangers.
I had limited access to the Wild before college, but always did my best to see them whenever they came in my area. I first saw them in person in Boston. Thankfully, they won 2-0 on the back of a Manny Fernandez, who posted a shutout. Two of my all-time favorite players scored for the Wild. Richard Park netted a goal on a point-blank slap shot that trickled over the line past Felix Potvin (who also snared a blast from the point to make SportsCenter’s Top Ten the next day). I had a great view of the goal from the fourth row. Early in the third, Stephan Veilleux scored a shorthanded goal for some insurance. I was beyond relieved. The next time I saw them in Boston was another shutout win for the Wild. This time, Niklas Backstrom recorded a 1-0 shutout thanks to a blast from the point by Marek Zidlicky that beat Manny Fernandez, of all goalies.
My first Wild game in the State of Hockey was in February 2008, on my visit to see the U. After watching Blake Wheeler and the Gophers beat and tie Wisconsin, I watched the division rival Flames take down the Wild, but I’ll still always remember how awesome of an experience it was. I had my first meal—a Belgian waffle—at Mickey’s and saw Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff walking around at the RiverCentre before the game. Bloomington-native Mark Parrish got the Wild’s only goal. After that weekend, I knew I was destined to be a Gopher come the fall of 2008. The love for hockey shown by the fans in Minnesota and my newfound fascination with the Twin Cities area was too much to pass up for a 17-year-old hockey fanatic, even though Michigan State and Miami (Ohio) were in the running until the end.
Since I’ve come to Minnesota, most of my extra funds have been devoted to tickets to Wild and Gopher hockey games. I went to the home opener against Boston in 2008, which was unbelievable. Seven months later, I watched Marian Gaborik step off the Xcel Energy Center ice for the final time in a Wild uniform after a high scoring game against Nashville—it was also the last home game that would feature Jacques Lemaire behind the bench for the Wild. It was a bittersweet night as I watched the Wild get eliminated from the playoffs later that night with the lone security guard remaining at the X.
In 2009, I spent about a week’s pay (I was a landscaper in the summer) on a front row seat to see the beginning of the Chuck Fletcher, Todd Richards, and Martin Havlat era in Minnesota. Boy, was that worth it or what? The crowd was already ecstatic from watching the Twins clinch a playoff spot only to have the Ducks suck the energy right out of the building by taking a 3-0 lead heading into the third period. However, in a miraculous turn of events, the Wild stormed back with three quick goals and made the crowd leave happy after Andrew Brunette shelved the overtime winner.
Later in the year, I watched the Wild debut their new third jerseys against Colorado, Marian Gaborik’s return (...until he was scratched) to St. Paul, and saw a Josh Harding start for the first time in a 5-2 win against Detroit. My last game of the year was against Dallas, in what may have been Mike Modano’s last game. Watching Mikey Mo come out from the tunnel after the game in a white North Stars jersey was a moment I’ll never forget. I’ll also never forget trying to snap a picture of former UMass Minuteman Casey Wellman after scoring his first NHL goal. Unfortunately, that was also Minnesota legend Mike Ramsey’s last game behind the bench as the Wild’s assistant coach.
My fantasy baseball team is my favorite thing to write about in the summer, but like most people who play fantasy baseball or any fantasy sport, I realize that the most interesting thing in the world is my fantasy team, but the least interesting thing in the world is anyone else’s team. With hockey being my main focus just about year round, I decided to start this blog to hone my writing skills and keep in touch with my favorite sport. I may not be like a beat writer with all the latest breaking news, but I’ll try my best to keep up with what’s going with Wild hockey and with other goings on in the NHL.
My main sources of Wild and NHL news come from official websites and reports from places like Russo’s Rants (by the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo) and other blogs. During the offseason and 2010-2011 season I’ll be a more frequent user of Twitter, but for now I will be mostly on Facebook and on this blog.