Portland Goes to Wild for NHL Action

By pbadmin

September 19, 2000

It took an exhibition game between a mediocre, depleted San Jose Sharks squad and the expansion Minnesota Wild to bring NHL Hockey to the Rose Garden in Portland, OR on Tuesday night. Portland hockey fans finally got to witness what has been dangled under their noses for the past 5 years; whether they have liked it or not. The 8,124 in attendance were treated to an entertaining contest despite the absence of many key Shark players and a Minnesota roster that more resembles that of an IHL team than a competitive NHL team. San Jose took the ice without notables such as Owen Nolan, Patrick Marleau, Gary Suter and Brad Stuart due to reasons ranging from contract squabbles to minor injuries.

Minnesota, playing the first game in franchise history, went toe to toe with the Sharks throughout the entire game and earned a 3-3 tie in a match that had a little bit everything from fighting, to breakaways, to great goaltending in stretches. The game was the first for a Minnesota professional hockey team since the North Stars left town along with team owner Norm Green for Dallas, Texas after the 1992 season. Scott Pellerin scored what will go down in history as the first goal in Wild franchise history when he beat Sharks goaltender Johan Hedberg at 3:59 of the first period after gathering a rebound of his own initial shot and beating Hedberg with a shot long to the stick-side to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Minnesota played a spirited first period and were a step ahead of the Sharks for a majority of time in the period. Matt Bradley scored the first of his two goals in the contest for the Sharks at the 10:00 mark of the period when the puck deflected past Minnesota netminder Jamie McLennan off of a Wild defenseman. Bradley, a young prospect that spent last year with Kentucky of the IHL was by far the best young player on the ice for the Sharks. Minnesota got solid; if sometimes tentative, play from rookie defenseman Lubomir Sekeras. Sekeras, a draft pick from Trencin, Slovakia appeared often times unsure of whether to commit in the offensive zone or to sag back in safety defense, but his solid skating and a third period slap-shot goal that evened the score at 3-3 gave a glimmer of what the future could hold for the young European.

In other prospect notes from the entertaining game; Pascal Dupuis displayed great speed and agility in what will most likely be a brief stint with the Wild’s main training camp. Dupuis took a breakaway pass in the first period as he blew past the Sharks defense and made a million dollar move on Hedberg; only to be stoned by an equally impressive split save by the 27 year-old Swedish netminder. Dupuis is scheduled for demotion, but did not look out of place whatsoever among the speedy NHL skaters that often overwhelm smallish rookie skill-players. Dupuis spent last season with Shawinigan of the QMJHL in Canada Major Jr. Hockey. Minnesota first round draft pick, Marian Gaborik, was a scratch in the contest due to a minor shoulder injury. Gaborik also comes out of Trencin, Slovakia and will be expected to step into an immediate scoring role for the offense-challenged expansion team. Jonathan Cheechoo, a one-time bright prospect for the Sharks appeared slow and sluggish and did not show any signs of becoming the player the Sharks would like him to become any time soon.

The exhibition contest also had the usual dose of pre-season fisticuffs with four different scraps; including a tilt between former Shark Andy Sutton and San Jose tough-guy Bryan Marchment in the third period. Sutton did a lot of the throwing early in the battle, but it was Marchment that found the range with far more of his salvo’s enroute to an impressive decision.

Many thought that NHL games in the Rose Garden would be common place by now, with Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen rumored to be courting franchises since the building was completed five years ago. Portland hockey has a large fan base for the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, but a majority of those fans would be priced out of being able to attend more than a few of the exponentially more expensive NHL games. Allen remains in limbo with the question of whether or not many of the deep-pocket fans that buy tickets to see his NBA team are going to turn out in large enough numbers for a sport that shares the same calendar season as his basketball team. Obviously, Allen and his staff have yet to convince themselves that the NHL is a feasible business venture as the sickly wealthy Microsoft co-founder has stayed away from the past two expansion phases in the NHL and his offerings for existing teams have resembled more of a mercy handout than that of someone who really wants the NHL in his building.

The Scrap Re-Cap:

Andy Sutton (Minnesota) vs. Paul Kruse (San Jose)

Sutton takes the decision but will pay the price later

Mike Matteucci (Minnesota) vs. Scott Thornton (San Jose)

Thornton demonstrates why you don’t mess with scrappy veterans with an overwhelming decision.

Andy Sutton (Minnesota) vs. Bryan Marchment (San Jose)

Well, at least Andy went 1-1 tonight. Don’t mess with a former teammate whose nose points in 3 different directions is the moral of this story! Marchment rules this tilt!