Wild nearing free fall and an unspeakable tragedy

Marc Elliott

Adam Johnson

ELY  – I received my first text message about the incident at 5:30 last Saturday afternoon. It was from my son William. It said "Not sure if you are aware but Adam Johnson suffered a major injury to the throat in a game today and didn't make it."

Johnson was a former Hibbing HS, UMD, AHL and NHL player and I knew he had signed with an EIHL team during the offseason when he got a contract with the Nottingham Panthers. So for the next ten minutes or so I searched every North American hockey-related website I could think of and found little to no news. I then checked every major news site in England and the UK along with the league and team websites and fared no better.   It would have been right before midnight there and nothing had entered the news cycle as of yet. The chilling news had made it through the Hibbing hockey community at the speed of light though and they were reeling from it and have been badly shaken since.  

I messaged my son back and asked if he was sure about the second part of his message. The reply was short and to the point "he didn't make it" was the terse response. To say I was shocked and in disbelief wouldn't begin to cover it. From his Squirt hockey age forward my son had been a part of the Hibbing Youth Hockey program and he was part of the high school program until his senior year. He is slightly older than Adam was and had met him on a few occasions but knew his older brother Ryan a bit more.   Both Bill and I have our favorite pro and amateur teams.

And when it comes to players produced from the State of Hockey's various youth, high school, and collegiate programs when any of them complete that part of their playing days and begin to pursue a pro hockey career we cheer for all of them. The inner pride we have within ourselves about Minnesota players extends to each and every one of them. And of course having spent time in the Hibbing program my son has immense pride when it comes to that. Ever since Adam embarked on that part of his career we talked of him frequently and how his pro hockey aspirations were going.  

Whether it was in the AHL or NHL, as he continued to live the dream that most of us could never imagine we were behind him all the way. We cheered the night he got his first NHL goal while playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins and we were equally thrilled that he got to do that in St. Paul in a game against the Wild in front of family and friends.  

Injuries of this nature are a rarity in the NHL and fatalities even more so. What isn't rare is that the NHL will move at glacial melt speed when it comes to considering protective equipment measures to ensure that an injury of this type never takes place again. I certainly understand that there are many facets to consider regarding that. And many other leagues both professional and amateur have already made statements or rules changes to do so. It is just that there is a historical slowness in the way the NHL handles situations like this relative to equipment and whether or not to force players to act in their own best interests. It has been an ingrained part of its own DNA. I hope the rawness and shock this incident has brought to us will encourage the league to expedite the consideration to act.  

At this time I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Adam. He was a remarkable player and person and I encourage the entire State of Hockey community to honor his memory by acting in the name of player safety on his behalf to do all in its power to make certain this sort of accident never occurs again...     

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers on winning their first MLB World Series Championship ever! I am compelled to say that back in August and early September this was a team I had little to no confidence in as far as winning a Fall Classic went. But under the leadership of veteran manager Bruce Bochy the Rangers went the distance and did so in a most decisive fashion. It was downright impressive. Overall in the playoffs the Rangers went 13-4. They swept the Tampa Bay Rays, (2-0) and the Baltimore Orioles, (3-0) went seven games with the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros, (4-3) and in the Championship round took down the Arizona Diamondbacks. (4-1)  

In one of the more impressive features of the playoffs the Rangers went an astounding 11-0 on the road. The title is Bochy's fourth as a manager and there is already some chatter as to whether he will return to manage next season or retire. Either way the club had one heck of a run this year! Congrats Rangers!  

Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL and is finished for the season. He will miss the first game of his career ever due to injury. Rookie Jaren Hall will take the starter reins for now and the team traded with the Arizona Cardinals for QB Joshua Dobbs to add another player to the mix. I'm not quite certain what to make of the Dobbs addition. Whether in the classroom or on the gridiron he has an upper-level intellect.

On the other hand that hasn't propelled his NFL career very far. The Vikings are now his 6th team discounting two others where he was a practice squad member. He was a 4th round pick in the 2017 entry draft. Head Coach Kevin O'Connell has indicated that Hall will be the starter for the time being...  

The Minnesota Wild are in some early season trouble of sorts having lost 4 games in a row with the last two of those coming against the Stanley Cup-contending New Jersey Devils in a home-and-home sequence. The club now sits at 3-5-2 (3-7) and will meet the New York Rangers tomorrow night in St. Paul. The Rangers are currently at 8-2 but have some injured players that won't be making it into the lineup in the Capital City. If this trend continues the team will struggle to get a playoff spot.  

Forward Matt Boldy returned from injury last night but Captain Jared Spurgeon and forward Freddy Gaudreau are still out. Even when the duo returns to the lineup card I'm not sure their presence will do much to alter the fortunes of the team. They are on a trajectory to end up near the bottom of the Conference and League standings. One publication states that the team will end up with 96 points on the season. That has a possibility of getting them into the playoffs. My revised projection has them in a dogfight to break 70 points.  

A better guess is that they finish in between those numbers but miss the playoffs altogether. It's early in the season and the State of Hockey fans are already getting quite restless... PEACE