As NHL free agency activity slows to a weak drip, its time to finally relax and embrace the off season. No doubt its been a stressful last year and half for most people around the world as everyone suddenly had to get used to the fact that they shouldn’t get used to anything the way it was. And with the news hinting those uncertain days may return, we could all use something a bit more lighthearted than the serious talk about salary caps, contracts, cap recapture penalties, buyouts and no no trade clauses.
For fans of the Minnesota and Iowa Wild you have a great option to de-stress but still talk hockey albeit in a lighthearted way in Lights, Camera (insert player nickname here) with Joe O’Donnell. Joe O’Donnell has been the play-by-play voice of the Minnesota Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate (whether its been in Houston or Iowa) since 2008. If his job only was just the radio / TV voice of the Iowa Wild it would be one thing, but he manages corporate and fan outreach events, arranges ticket and hotel accommodations if a player needs it. Honestly, to call him Iowa’s Mr. Everything as this Dan Meyers article did, is probably an understatement. He really helps the Iowa Wild function and so players and coaches can focus on the game all the while doing all of the promotion possible for the organization.
Yet just to give him one more thing to do he began to host little ‘get to know them’ videos on YouTube during the offseason to young Wild players. In these videos you get a quick insight to what their summer offseason training is like as well as some random bits of information in a series of 13 questions he asks each player. I will admit, as some of you know my ‘day job’ is as a high school teacher and I am going to steal his list of questions to use on my students as they return to class in about two weeks from now. Joe is a quality play-by-play man, but he’s also a natural as an interviewer and I think he does a good job of establishing a rapport with the people he’s interviewing and I think he makes it comfortable to be candid in their responses which I think you will see in the videos below.
Here are some samples of the videos he’s produced so far, which are very much deserving of more views than they’ve received thus far.
I think the interviews give fans a good mix of hockey talk as well as some moments to get a chance to see how these players think on their feet. I think its obvious the players were amused by the questions but they’re short enough to not become a slog.
Minnesota also re-signed versatile, speedy forward Will Bitten to a 1-year, two-way contract that will pay him $840,000 to play in the NHL. The 23-year old can play either on the wing or at center had 7 goals, 19 points in 31 games with Iowa last season. The Ottawa, Ontario-native is one of Iowa’s hardest working players shift-to-shift and is a pain to play against.
Iowa also added 25-year old Ryan Kuffner to a 1-year (two-way deal). Kuffner, the former Princeton University star played last season in the German (DEL) with ERC Ingolstadt where he had 7 goals, 14 points in 31 games. Like Bitten, the 6’1″, 185lbs left-shot left wing is an Ottawa, Ontario-native. He played in 10 NHL games right out of college in the 2018-19 season with the Detroit Red Wings where he had no points.
The Iowa Wild likely made its last roster move this summer by re-signing restricted free agent Mason Shaw to a 2-year, 2-way contract worth $750,000 per season. The 5’9″, 179lbs left-shot center has struggled through a series of significant knee injuries since the team drafted him in the 4th round in (97th Overall) in 2017. When he’s healthy, he’s a pesky forward with good creativity. Shaw had a decent albeit shortened season last year with 8 goals and 22 points for Iowa. He had started to develop some promising chemistry with Matt Boldy late last season.
Here is what Iowa’s possible lineup could look like heading into the month before Wild training camp.
RW – Mitchell Chaffee
RW – Nick Swaney
C – Damien Giroux
C – Joey Cramarossa
RW – Ivan Lodnia
C – Connor Dewar
C / LW – Kyle Rau
C – Dominic Turgeon
F – Cody McLeod
RW – Brandon Duhaime
C / RW – Will Bitten
C / LW – Matt Boldy
LW – Ryan Kuffner
C – Mason Shaw
LW – Adam Beckman
D – Fedor Gordeev
D – Riese Zmolek
D – Dakota Mermis
D – Jon Lizotte
D – Joey Hicketts
D – Kevin Czuczman
D – Calen Addison
D – Keaton Thompson
Another cool short video that was produced was by the Minnesota Wild as they attempted to provide a small window into the draft room during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft called Beyond Our Ice. Honestly, this is something I wish the team would do more of because I think it gives us an idea as to how quickly events can change and suddenly a player you never expected to be available was and what does your team do about it.
The Athletic‘s Scott Burnside did a great deep dive of life in the Wild’s front offices during those crazy days of the NHL Expansion Draft and the NHL Entry Draft but even details were omitted to preserve the feelings of players and team executives they still were highly informative. If you enjoy the draft, who wouldn’t want to just sit there and listen to the conversations team scouts, management and coaches have about the team and the players they feel are important to have going into the future.
In his most recent Straight from the Source podcast, Michael Russo said the Wild’s Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett admitted having the draft in the traditional way where you have the teams all sitting on the floor of an arena where opposing team tables are just a few feet from your own how secrecy is nearly impossible. How in some ways by having the teams do the draft remotely makes secrecy far easier to maintain. He said Brackett told him that they developed hand signals so they wouldn’t inadvertently give something away to another organization that might affect how the draft unfolds resulting in losing a player their team really coveted.
What sort of videos would you like to see the Minnesota Wild or Iowa Wild do? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!