ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The Bruce Boudreau era has begun for the Minnesota Wild.
For the players, the demands will be many. The expectations will be as straightforward as can be. The experience also promises to be a lot of fun.
“Sometimes he doesn’t even know what’s coming out of his mouth when he’s talking,” forward Charlie Coyle said.
The rotund new head coach, well-regarded for his regular-season success, well-known for his profane rants and well-liked for his down-to-earth and self-deprecating manner, formally took over Friday for the first two practices of training camp. The squad split into two groups and, in addition to plenty of time with the white board picking up Boudreau’s defensive scheme, went through a grueling conditioning test during which skaters had to complete several laps around the rink under certain times.
The drills were no joke, but Boudreau made sure to keep the mood light even while barking encouragement to the participants.
“We’re huffing and puffing,” Coyle said, “and he’s still making us laugh.”
NHL training camps began about a week later than usual because of the World Cup of Hockey, and six Wild players were given a break for the first three days in their transition back home from competition: forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter from Team USA, forwards Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula of Team Finland and forward Nino Niederreiter of Team Europe. Only Niederreiter’s team is still alive in the tournament, so he could be delayed further.
The learning process won’t wait, though.
“We want to ramp it up as quick as we can. We want to have a lot of pace in our practice. It’s a real mixture, because we have to teach at the same time. It’s not going to be like a practice in December,” Boudreau said. “At the same time, we don’t want anything slow. We want a lot of moving parts.”
The first exhibition game is on Monday against Buffalo in State College, Pennsylvania, and the season opener is Oct. 13 at St. Louis. That’s less than three weeks away. Hence the hard work on the first day, even though players train year-round these days and don’t typically need to get back into shape.
“Everyone’s just excited to get this thing going and start playing some real hockey,” defenseman Matt Dumba said.
There will be differences in style, for sure.
“I think they’re still trying to figure me out. `What’s this guy like? He seems to be smiling a little too much.’ Or, `He’s joking around with me. Is he really joking or is he sarcastic?”‘ Boudreau said. “I think it takes a little bit of time for guys to get to know me.”
Impressions are there to be made for the players, most of whom have never played for Boudreau before.
“Everyone’s here to get a job and knock people out of their jobs, so everyone came prepared,” Coyle said. “It’s good to see that intensity and that competition right away.”