Travels Built Perseverance
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A fragment of insight into the success of the Wild comes from a quick glance at the players’ previous stops and starts along the road to Minnesota.
Making up the list, among others, are Long Beach, Cleveland, Syracuse, N.Y., Providence, R.I., Worcester, Mass., and HC Lugano (Switzerland).
Center Wes Walz stopped off in the first city and the last in the 1999-2000 season before signing with the Wild as a free agent in June 2000.
It’s no coincidence the tougher circumstances of the past have molded Minnesota and put the Wild into the Western Conference finals against the Ducks today. Walz scored the tying goal in Game 7 against the Canucks on Thursday.
“A lot of it comes from the fact we have a lot of guys on our team that have been throwbacks from different teams -- third, fourth-line players that had never been given an opportunity to play at this level,” Walz said. “Every individual player has had to deal with a lot of adversity in their own career.”
Facing a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs twice -- and surviving -- isn’t quite the monumental task after packing up three young kids and moving to Europe to find work in the Swiss National League.
“So whenever we do deal with adversity, we do a pretty good job,” Walz said.
“If you take the time to sit down with everybody, it’d be kind of interesting to go around with everyone and they’d tell you what happened here and what happened there.”
Wild defenseman Jason Marshall, who played in 347 regular-season games with the Ducks before being traded to Washington in 2001, was looking forward to facing his old team for the right to go to the Stanley Cup finals.
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “I’ve known a lot of those guys for a long time, so I’m happy they are doing well. At the same time, I’ll be excited to bang them in the corners.”
Like Walz, Marshall feels the atmosphere around the Wild is unique.
“There’s no egos. Everybody is just happy to be playing. It’s a special team,” he said. “It’s very rare. I can think of maybe one other team I’ve been a part of that’s like a real team, in the minors.”
The road-weary Wild returned from Vancouver on Friday afternoon and all of them skated at a rink in Minneapolis, with one exception: goaltender Dwayne Roloson. He needed attention from the trainer on the ice after a rattling third-period collision late in Game 7.
With Roloson taking a physical beating, it’s not out of the question that the Wild would turn to Manny Fernandez, the hero of the Colorado series. In the playoffs, Fernandez has appeared in six games, and Roloson nine.