Ranking the 5 Biggest Fan Favorites in Minnesota Wild History
In compiling this list of fan favorites from the Minnesota Wild, I chose players who are no longer in the NHL. This eliminates current stars Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Co. Guys like Marian Gaborik, who graced the Wild roster at one point and currently wear another sweater, are excluded as well.
Keep in mind that Minnesota got its team in 2000, so this is a relatively short list.
5. Brian Rolston
Rolston will probably be remembered more as a Boston Bruin or New Jersey Devil because he played in Beantown and Jersey far longer than he did in St. Paul, but Rolston had his most productive seasons as a member of the Wild.
He joined the team in 2005-06 and left after the 2007-08 season. He scored 34, 31 and 31 goals, respectively, in his three years with the Wild. His previous season high was 31 in 2001-02 when he was with Boston, and he never had another 30-goal season with the Bruins.
Although he is probably a Bruin or Devil at heart, fans in Minnesota remember him fondly.
4. Wes Walz
Currently a television analyst with Fox Sports North, Walz spent the final seven seasons in Minnesota before retiring at age 37. He was never a prolific goalscorer (his career high is 19) or even a dynamic passer (he never had more than 20 assists with the Wild).
He has a cool story, however. He played two games with the Boston Bruins at age 19, but never played more than 56 games in a season from age 19 to 25.
At age 25 he suited up for two games as a member of the Detroit Red Wings and then spent four years in the Swiss leagues before joining the expansion Wild.
He had the best years of his career as a 30-year-old in St. Paul and became part of the “Wild family” by covering the team as an analyst last year.
3. Andrew Brunette
Brunette played with the Nashville Predators in their first year of existence and then joined the expansion Atlanta Thrashers (remember them?) during their first season in the league.
Had he left Atlanta in 2000-01 and joined the Wild, he could have pulled off the trifecta. Instead, he joined Minnesota in 2001-02, stayed three years, spent three years in Colorado and then returned to the State of Hockey for another three years.
He spent one last season with the Blackhawks before retiring in 2011-12 and taking the position of hockey operations advisor for the Wild.
Known as an iron man throughout his career, Brunette did not miss a game from 2002-08.
2. Darby Hendrickson
I was at the first-ever regular-season game in Wild history and saw Hendrickson score a backdoor goal on the Philadelphia Flyers for the first goal in franchise history. It was a special moment: Hendrickson is from Richfield, Minn., played at the University of Minnesota and spent four years with the team before his swan song with the Colorado Avalanche.
Like Walz and Brunette, Hendrickson was a peripatetic player, but eventually was adopted into the “Wild family” by joining the team as an assistant coach.
1. Derek Boogaard
It’s a sad story, no doubt, and the death of Derek Boogaard was a serious influence on how fans and league officials alike view fighting in the NHL.
A proud player who would drop the gloves with anyone and tried many a time to put an opponent in the seats, Boogaard will always be revered in the State of Hockey.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.