Jared Spurgeon’s bosses had some news deemed important enough to deliver in person, so general manager Bill Guerin and head coach Dean Evason dropped by the Minnesota Wild defenseman’s house on the eve of training camp for a visit with the family of six.
Spurgeon’s 6-year-old daughter, Colbie, was skeptical.
”She asked if he was firing me,” Spurgeon said.
No, dear, your dad is about the last player the Wild would get rid of. Guerin and Evason were there to formally name Spurgeon just the second full-time captain in team history.
”From the day I got this job, Spurge is the guy that I heard all about. He’s the guy that people in this organization gravitate towards. They love him,” said Guerin, in his second season with the Wild.
Spurgeon, who’s beginning his 11th season in the NHL, will replace Mikko Koivu, who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets after 15 years with Minnesota.
”He cares more about the team than he does himself. He does not have to change a thing,” Evason said on Monday after the team’s first practice. ”His work ethic, how he conducts himself on and off the ice, is with class. He leads by example. He may not be the most outspoken guy and what have you, but he leads in a way that is calming and we feel is going to be calming for our group. As well, he brings an intense level and an intensity to his game that should rub off on the rest of the group.”
The 5-foot-9, 167-pound Spurgeon was playing in juniors in the WHL when Minnesota signed him as an undrafted, undersized prospect at age 20. He’s starting a seven-year, $53 million contract extension this season, as the all-time franchise leader in blocked shots, hits, goals by a defenseman and several other categories. He’s second among all players in club history in games played.
”I hope that it rubs off on the other guys, that you always want to strive to be your best. It can be a workout in the gym that makes you better, or just a little extra shooting off to the side after practice. I think every day you have to come in and try and prove who you are and what you want to do for the team,” Spurgeon said.
Left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter will continue to serve as alternate captains. Parise, who’s beginning his ninth season with the Wild, acknowledged some disappointment in being passed over, but could hardly be bitter about seeing Spurgeon honored.
”We all know what type of person he is, and as a player we see it every day what he brings to us. I’m happy for him,” Parise said, ”and I think he’s going to do a really good job.”
Some NHL teams opened camp this week without a formally named captain, including the Boston Bruins, who let defenseman Zdeno Chara depart for Washington after he wore the ”C” since 2006. General manager Don Sweeney called his new captain an ”obvious decision,” with all signs pointing to Patrice Bergeron taking over.
The Vegas Golden Knights are expected to name their first captain before the start of their fourth season of existence. The New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators are the other teams currently without a captain. The Red Wings could give it to Dylan Larkin, while the Senators will wait until next season to decide between Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot.
From their inaugural 2000-01 season until head coach Jacques Lemaire retired nine years later, the Wild rotated their captaincy on a monthly basis. Koivu was the first full-time pick, until now.
”It’s just different in our game. It’s really tough to explain, but it’s an important position. It’s a big honor,” Guerin said. ”There are times during the season where he’s the guy that other players look to in the room. What’s he doing? How he’s carrying himself? What are his reactions? And they usually come through the most when things are tough.”
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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