With the sports world on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone gathers around their television once a week to celebrate ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 series, The Last Dance. The story is centered around the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls in their quest for their sixth and final NBA championship. The series has been a resounding success thus far, as ESPN moved up their original release date of June 2020 to last month to accommodate sports fans’ thirst for new content.
The Last Dance, and 30 for 30 documentaries, had one wondering which Minnesota Wild stories over the past 20 years would be worthy of a documentary unto itself. The following would be candidates for said documentary.
Ottawa Equipment Truck Fire
Perhaps the oddest thing to happen to the Wild in their 20 year history, and there has been quite a few oddities, was on December 18, 2009. Following a morning skate across the street from Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators, the Wild’s equipment truck caught fire on the inside and resulted in nearly all of the team’s equipment being destroyed. The NHL insisted that the game the following night must go on, so the Wild training staff had the exhilarating job of flying back and forth between Ottawa and Minnesota to get the team properly geared up for the game. The documentary would virtually be Michael Russo’s oral history of those days coming to life in video form, as the thorough piece basically provides the script for what it would look like along with interviews from staff, players, and media.
The Zach Parise & Ryan Suter signings
No story in Wild history has been bigger than when free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed with Minnesota on July 4, 2012. The pair had began discussing their options for free agency during the 2010 Olympics, and both were undoubtedly the biggest free agents on the market at that time. For several weeks of the offseason their movements were tracked, which teams they were meeting with, and even had beat writers hiding behind trees trying to get the scoop on where they would sign. Since the pair signed, Minnesota has gone on to make the playoffs six times in seven full seasons (not counting 2019-20 due to the pause).
Getting Kirill Kaprizov To Minnesota
This is a documentary for down the road, but when all is said and done, it would be worthwhile to go back and re-explore the last five years between the Wild drafting Russian forward Kirill Kaprizov and getting him signed and in Minnesota. The Wild have had to sit patiently while there have been many twists and turns in this tale, including several agents, several general managers, and the Russian Federation strong arming the forward into re-signing with his KHL team. You have to wonder at some point if Craig Leipold ever thought of doing a Detroit Red Wing style defection with Kaprizov like they did with Sergei Fedorov in 1990 (kidding, sort of).
The 14 months of Paul Fenton
This one might be the most compelling documentary of any listed here. For the first time in nine years, the Wild made a general manager change, as they did not renew the contract of Chuck Fletcher. They opted to hire Nashville assistant general manager Paul Fenton to run the hockey ops department, and what followed was just bizarre by hockey standards. From the weird interview process, to the hiring, to the trades, to the management of the front office, all the way up unto the firing, Fenton gave the Wild a turbulent 14 months in charge. Again, a Michael oral history would provide the script, with interviews from players, staff, and media to give insight on what went on during those 14 months.
Devan Dubnyk’s 2014-15 season
One year previous, Devan Dubnyk had contemplated life without hockey. But prior to the 2014-15 season, the Arizona Coyotes had tossed him a lifeline, and by mid-season he was the starting goaltender of the Minnesota Wild. What happened next was an incredible ride that saw Dubnyk win 27 of 39 starts with the Wild, vaulting them into the playoffs. Dubnyk would help the Wild reach the second round of the playoffs, and took home some hardware for his season as well. One of the better turnaround stories in recent memory.
2003 Playoff Run
Just three seasons into their existence, the Wild took their fans on an incredible ride to the Western Conference Finals in the spring of 2003. There has been a lot done on this team already, but putting it into a documentary would the icing on the cake of the most revered squad in team history. The team never really let off the gas after a hot start to the season, and ended up turning around two 3-1 series deficits to get into the Conference Finals that year. A very memorable run that continues to live in Wild lore.
Seven years of hell – The years Minnesota went in between hockey teams
Preceding that run above and the previous two years of the team was a seven year stretch where the Twin Cities went without an NHL franchise. The documentary can chronicle the downfall of the North Stars in Minnesota and their subsequent move to Dallas (see team owner here), the years in between that got Minnesota back in the NHL, and the success of the Wild since the return.
The Derek Boogaard Story
There may not be a more beloved figure in the history than enforcer Derek Boogaard, who roamed the ice in Minnesota from 2005-2010. Boogaard just played one season after his time with the Wild before passing away in May of 2011 after an accidental overdose of oxycodone. Boogaard was later revealed from having suffered from CTE and also addiction to pain killers. Boogaard’s life was outlined in the John Branch book Boy On Ice, and would follow the same outline for a documentary.
From a goaltending perspective, there has not been a more talented one in the team’s history than 2002 draft pick Josh Harding. From injuries to his announcement of having MS during the 2012 lockout, there was only brief glimpses – summed up by his play in the first half of 2013-14 season before he shut it down forever — of what could have been from the Regina, SK native.