Hopefully everyone stopping in to visit Hockey Wilderness understands that the writers behind the site are Wild fans first. Sure, we consider ourselves journalists, but a different form of journalist. We write from a fan's perspective, and are unabashed about doing so.
So forgive me if I tell you that Andrew Brunette is my favorite Wild player. The guy comes out every game, every practice and works so hard (Sorry Tom) that it can't help but translate to those around him. As Russo points out in his piece on Bruno today, and as every coach and fan to ever watch Bruno play has noted: the guy is not very fast. Yet, there is no one who does't like the guy.
Make the jump for a walk down memory lane.
Do you subscribe to the same thinking as a certain Pioneer Press beat writer? That 1000 games just isn't a big deal, that it is just another game?
Without spending too much time convincing you otherwise, remember that in its nearly 100 year history, only 261 players have ever done it. 1000 games is over 12 full seasons of hockey. In order to reach the milestone, a player has to first be worthy of an NHL roster spot for 12 years. Then, he either has to have the best luck in the world to avoid injury, or be tough enough to play through them.
Bruno once played for months on a torn ACL that required surgery to repair. Rough, tough football players miss seasons because of the same injury. Bruno missed two games.
How many players don't make a 12 year NHL career to begin with? More players leave before 12 years than make it that long, I can tell you that.
If you are unimpressed with 1000 games in the NHL, I defy you to convince me that it is unimpressive. Bring the heat.
What are the top moments in Andrew Brunette history? Honestly, I do not know what he would rank highest, but he told Russo that it is the simple fact of being with the boys. The best line to me in the entire piece?
"We're playing a game. You don't work hockey. You play hockey."
If that doesn't convince you that Bruno gets it, nothing will.
Here are the top memories I have of him:
As I briefly explained over at the HW Facebook page, I was there.
I had purchased tickets to game 6 back at the X the night before. Richard Park scores a goal to push it to 7, and the PA announces that there are ticket packages available to go to game seven. I had invited my boss to the game, and I looked at him and mentioned how nice it would be to just be able to drop everything and head to Denver. We laughed it off and went and had a beer.
The next morning, he called me at 11AM. I was scheduled to work at 1PM. I figured they needed extra help and answered the phone through my hangover. Before I could even say "hello," he said "Go online and by seats, I have the airfare." I was floored, and after a bit of back and forth, I went online to buy the seats.
One guy on Ebay had seats, but wouldn't answer his phone. Another answered and refused to sell them to Minnesota fans (love the commitment). Finally, we decided to just hit up a scalper when we got there.
I called a former boss for a ride to the arena from Nebraska. If you have ever been to Denver Airport, you understand that joke. He gladly obliged us, and we began looking for seats. One guy wouldn't sell them to us because, as he said, "There are too many cops around." This isn't meth, pal. Game tickets.
I walked up to the cop and asked him where I could get a scalper to sell me tickets. He pointed about a block away, and we had our lead. We bought two seats, upper deck, second to last row, in the end opposite where Bruno scored that magical goal.
We ribbed the Avs fans around us. In the "cheap" seats, we felt a bit worried for our safety, but that quickly passed. We joined the Avs fans in deriding Karrey Fraser. We were nervous every time the Avs got a power play and Joe Sakic and Milan Hjeduk skated out on the ice.
When the game went to overtime, I got a call from a friend back home. He asked if I was watching the game. It was at that point I realized I forgot to tell anyone I had left for Denver. I said... "Uh, yeah. I'm there, I mean here. At Pepsi Center." The phone was silent for about ten seconds, and then he just said "Only you."
When Brunette scored, Jeff and I jumped up and celebrated. We then realized we were the only ones in the general area doing so, and quickly made our way to a large group of Wild fans sitting behind the Wild goal. We walked out with the group, caught a cab, and returned to the airport. We slept in hard plastic chairs and on the floor. In the morning, we walked down stairs and realized there were large, plush leather couches.
Didn't matter. The Wild had won, and we needed to get home to buy tickets against the Canucks.
In the offseason, my ex-wife and I purchased Wild season tickets. When we did so, we were given a discount card, and another discount for a very reasonable customized Wild sweater. I could not decide which to get, and held onto that card for over a year. When I finally decided to get a Bruno sweater, he was a UFA, and I held off.
HWSRN decided to let Bruno walk. Moron. Wild fans? Not pleased.
I instead, ended up with a Brian Rolston sweater, and a divorce in which I lost my seats. Good times had by all. Good thing I never got that sweater, since I would not have thought to get 17,615 put on it.
When HWSRN brought Bruno back, one of the many wrongs committed against the Wild fan base had been corrected. Good thing Bruno only had two of the best years of his career while playing for a division rival. There would be many other time HWSRN would screw the fan base, and the organization as a whole, but one of the worst non-signings in team history had been corrected.
I know the fact that he scored the biggest goal in team history wouldn't matter to some. Hell, even Bruno himself doesn't rank it at the top. Still, it was a pretty big goal, and it cemented his name in Wild lore forever. Kids for generations will ask about that goal, ask about Bruno, and the fans who got to watch him play will gladly speak of him every chance they get.
I didn't get to watch all 1000 games. Hell, I missed most of them in his first run with the Wild. I haven't missed many since his return, though, and I got to see the big ones.
I was there in 2003. I will be there tonight, and I think that is even better.