MINNEAPOLIS - It’s been nearly a month since the Coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world, and one of the teams most frustrated about it might be the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild had beaten the Anaheim Ducks in overtime on March 8 before returning to St. Paul. They were getting ready to host the Vegas Golden Knights when, the night before, the NBA suspended its season after it Rudy Gobert tested positive for Covid-19.
Wild players showed up for morning skate before they were scheduled to host the Golden Knights, but the game never happened. They were told to go home, their game had been postponed and the NHL, like every other sport, suspended its season.
“We walked in the locker room and they told us we couldn’t be there, we had to go home. It’s amazing how fast it really has gone and how dangerous and serious it’s gotten,” Suter said Friday via Zoom. “Hopefully we’re getting towards the end of it here soon and people can get back to their normal lives.”
Soon is the operative word there. The NHL says it’s ready to go when it gets word that play can resume, but it will take at least a few weeks for players to get ready. The scenario exists, like the one MLB is exploring, that they would resume games in empty arenas.
Once that call is made, players have to get back to their teams before they can think about getting on the ice. Suter estimated that about 90 percent of the team’s European players are back home, and they’ll have to fly back to the Twin Cities and get medical clearance to play.
When the NHL season stopped, the Wild was one point out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 77 points. They were also just three points out of the No. 6 spot. There are 13 regular season games remaining, and league officials are open to any and all possibilities with the NHL season.
The Wild were 7-3 in their last 10 games when play was halted. It’s been a season that featured a 1-6 start, roster shakeups and a head coaching change.
“This year has been such an emotional rollercoaster. We started out terrible. Battled back and to finally be in a position to have an opportunity to make the playoffs says a lot about our group. We have a good group of guys, guys that want to win and have a chance to win,” Suter said.Suter, one of the team’s veterans and leaders, wants another chance to get the Wild to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s 35, has played more than 1,100 career games and is in his 15th NHL season. The clock is ticking.
“We were playing well, we were winning games. Our top guys were scoring goals. Everything was clicking, we had a good vibe going. Guys were kind of re-energized. We were getting ready for our push to make the playoffs,” Suter said.
One thing the time away from the rink has done is give Suter perspective. He’s spending more time with his family, and has a greater appreciation for teachers as he helps his kids with lesson plans and online learning.
He’s soaking in the little things he normally wouldn’t experience in the rush and grind of an NHL season. There will be hockey again at some point. They hope they get the chance to battle for a playoff spot. There will be a normal again, all it takes is one call. But for now, he’s appreciating life and health as others are struggling.
“The biggest thing now is it’s bigger than hockey. Sports, they bring people together. I’m sure people are craving something to watch on TV and something to cheer for, so hopefully if this works out we can get back to playing and some normalcy there,” Suter said. “That’s what I think the world is waiting on, that first sport to come back.”