It’s a start.
Yes, the Wild have players back skating at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul, but that doesn’t mean they will begin the upcoming NHL season soon.
With no start date set, the NHL’s goal of dropping the puck on New Year’s Day seems like a pipe dream at this point.
In the meantime, some Wild players are to starting to knock off the rust. As of Thursday afternoon, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Nico Sturm, Victor Rask and Brad Hunt, as well as newcomers Nick Bonino and Nick Bjugstad, all have been cleared to skate at TRIA Rink.
Asked about some of the specific players working out, general manager Bill Guerin said he expects that number to grow in the coming days. He also noted that top prospect Kirill Kaprizov likely will be added to the mix as early as next week.
“They are there three days a week right now,” Guerin said. “We split them up into the appropriate size groups. I spoke to a few of the guys yesterday. They are anxious to be in there five days a week and kind of get rolling.”
Most players on the team are still scattered around the world, according to Guerin, and he won’t set a mandatory return date until he has more clarity from the league. He knows how important family time is to his players, and he doesn’t want to take that away from them.
“They don’t get this opportunity this time of year,” Guerin said. “All I really care about is that wherever they are that they are getting the proper training and they are on the ice and they are not going to miss a beat when they get here.”
It helps that the Wild here before, ramping up quickly for the restart of the 2019-20 season over the summer. They had to stay in shape throughout the shutdown in the spring and returned ready to go for the qualifying series against the Vancouver Canucks.
“I have complete faith in them that they are going to show up in shape, ready to go,” Guerin said. “There’s no question they will do that. They are all professionals and smart guys that know what to do. I have 100 percent trust in these guys.”
As for the returning to play, whenever that does happen, Guerin seems confident it can get done without the need for a bubble. While that setup did an impeccable job keeping COVID out throughout the playoffs, it doesn’t appear to be an option now.
“I think using common sense and being responsible is the most important thing,” Guerin said. “I believe in our players and the people that work in the National Hockey League, and they will do what we have to do, and we will all do what we have to do to have success. There might be some bumps along the way. I totally think it’s possible, without a question.”