Wild Stun NHL By Signing Parise And Suter; Columnists Say Team Is Relevant Again
In one of the most "monumental days in Minnesota hockey history," the Wild "shook the foundation" of the NHL yesterday by signing LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98M contracts, according to a front-page piece by Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Within five hours of the signings, Wild officials said that the team "had sold about 700 new full season tickets for next season." When the NHL's free agency period began Sunday, Parise and Suter "began texting each other behind the scenes with the objective of making the reunion happen." Suter is a "Midwestern guy whose wife, Becky, is from Bloomington," and the "allure of playing at home for Parise, born in Minneapolis and a resident of Orono, was strong." Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy, said, "This is like Gretzky going to L.A., Malkin and Crosby going to Pittsburgh. It's a game-changer. It's huge" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/5). Wild Owner Craig Leipold said, "To say our phones are ringing would be an understatment. This is a game changer." USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes in 12 years of existence, the Wild "showed themselves to have an avid fan base, but they had limited playoff experience and virtually no national profile." That "might have changed Wednesday" (USA TODAY, 7/5). In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse writes, "This is an unprecedented leap by a Minnesota owner to compete for a championship." Leipold had told GM Chuck Fletcher "to be relentless in the pursuit of Parise and Suter, and the owner's commitment of a touch under $200 million was enough to nab the pair." Reusse: "Nothing this dramatic has happened here in competitive bidding for outside talent since the Minneapolis Lakers met George Mikan's asking price of $12,000 to outbid the Chicago Stags for the legendary center in the fall of 1947" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/5). In St. Paul, Ben Goessling notes the contracts "were the biggest a Minnesota sports team has ever given to a free agent," and excluding former Vikings QB Brett Favre, the deals "might be the most momentous" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/5).
THE CROWD GOES WILD: In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes Leipold yesterday "became the Alpha Male of Minnesota sports owners." Yesterday was "his best day as an NHL owner." Leipold said, "In the ticket office, our phones are ringing off the hook. We had eight people come in today at 12, not knowing what would happen. Now we get both players and we've brought in everybody on the payroll. We have hundreds and hundreds of season tickets sold. It's an amazing day" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/5). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes the Wild were "always in the picture financially, but it was critical for Fletcher to sell the pair on the possibility that Minnesota was poised for a major on-ice turnaround as well" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/5). In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes the Wild have "suddenly become relevant, going from a team that was hoping to make the playoffs to a team that will be expected to go deep into the postseason" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/5). SI.com's Allan Muir wrote after joining the NHL in '00, the Wild "finally became a team worth watching on Wednesday afternoon." They "became relevant with a stunning coup" (SI.com, 7/4). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote, "Finally, the intense and lasting love the state has for the sport has been rewarded -- and not just through a trade, but through the personal choice of players who could have signed anywhere" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 7/4).