It's not often when former players return to face their old teams that the team website posts a "How To" guide explaining how fans should react in different situations during the game involving the players.
That's what the Minnesota Wild have had up on their website since Thursday to help promote the return of Marian Gaborik(notes) and Derek Boogaard(notes) to Xcel Energy Center tonight as the New York Rangers visit. Included in the "How To" guide is:
"2. If Gabby scores a goal: This is where the cheering stops. There's never a time to cheer for an opponent scoring a goal in front of his old fans, unless that guy is dividing up his year's salary for the fans at the rink if he lights the lamp. Even then, it can only happen after the Wild has built an insurmountable lead."
Tonight will be the first time the Minnesota crowd will have he chance to react to Gaborik in person since the franchise's first ever draft pick in 2000 signed in New York. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune has more on the return of Boogaard and Gaborik.
The two teams squared off in Minnesota in October of last season, but as many Wild fans remember during Gaborik's time there, Gaborik was injured for the Rangers that night.
Did we also mention the Wild are handing out Gaborik bobbleheads in honor of their Year Ten All-Time team?
To get a vibe on how Wild fans are feeling heading into tonight and their thoughts on both players since they left the team, we reached out to four bloggers to get their takes. After the jump, joining us in the roundtable are Bryan Reynolds from Hockey Wilderness; Roy Mahlberg of Wild Puck Banter; Ms. Conduct from her self-titled blog; and Nikki Donovan of Gone Puck Wild.
1. What are your thoughts and feelings as Marian Gaborik returns to Xcel as a member of the New York Rangers? How do you feel he'll be received?
REYNOLDS: My thoughts and feelings on Gaborik are pretty clear among Wild fans. I think he is a money hungry prima donna with a history of being soft, possessing a "me first" attitude, and having never accomplished anything worth being paid the amount of money he is making. Greatest goal scorer the Wild have ever had, and may ever have for quite some time. Fans in Minnesota are not willing to overlook the bad attitude just because a guy scores a goal. Either be here for the team, and for the fans, or take your talents to South Beach (or Broadway as it were).
Removing myself from the equation, Wild fans are fairly respectful people. I expect there to be a mix of boos and cheers. Those that recognize what he meant while he was here will give him his due, and those that wish to voice their frustration with the way he handled every contract negotiation and his eventual departure will boo him. Within a minute or two, he'll be just another Ranger, with the fans wanting him to lose.
MAHLBERG: As a fan I wish Marian "Potato Head" (Copyright Jes Golbez) Gaborik nothing but failure. He was this franchise's only true star and when it was clear that he wasn't going to get re-signed, he blew out his groin playing hacky-sack and reduced his trade value to squat. I don't wish him injury; that would be unethical. I just wish him doom. Most Minnesota fans are way too polite, so Gabby will be applauded lustily.
CONDUCT: I'm over all the Gaborik bitterness. I have Cam Barker(notes) to be bitter about now, so maybe Gabby owes Cam a steak or something as thanks for having one less person going, "Ugh" when they hear his name. As far as reception, I'm not from Minnesota but I know a lot of those folks and that whole "Minnesota Nice" thing is true (at least to your face). So, I think he will mostly be well-received with a smattering of boos from the ones who started drinking early.
DONOVAN: I actually have mixed thoughts on this. Since he was the face of our franchise for years (when healthy, of course) I thought I would miss him. There are rare times when I do, like scoring a hat trick the other night. He was always a little on the arrogant side to me, and as a hockey fan, it is just not welcome in my hockey world. The organization still revolves around him sometimes. Why are we giving away Gaborik bobbleheads tonight, in a Wild jersey, when he plays with the Rags? This is totally ridiculous to me, and the reason I am not going tonight. Even though he did not re-sign a contract when offered from Risebrough at the time, I was in a "C'est la vie" mood. I know he and Lemaire did not get along; it's not a huge secret. I was fine with it, and it was time to move on. Enter Chuck Fletcher. He never offered Gabby a contract that we are aware of. Bravo! Time to move on. Give me a guy that can get 80 points a year and not be afraid of being touched by another player, let alone checked. That is what I was hoping for! (We signed Havlat instead, do I need to say more here?) Glass men do not exactly excite me, scoring ability or not!
I went last year for the Halloween game against the Rangers, and of course, he was injured. Priceless! How he will be received tonight is a mystery. When he was injured last year, all I heard were boo birds and a lot of laughs. But we are "Minny nice" here. "Fans" here still bad mouth Fletcher for not re-signing Gabby. Get over it already! Then there are the "fans" still upset with Gabby because he didn't re-sign when offered. I think it is going to be a mix of boos and cheers, with the boos winning out. If I was there I would just laugh!
2. What are your thoughts and feelings as Derek Boogaard returns as a member of the New York Rangers? How do you feel he'll be received?
REYNOLDS: Boogaard is the anti-Gaborik. He is a good man, with an excellent attitude, and a team first outlook. His lack of any skill set other than fisticuffs is not missed, but he is a legend here. I would bet that if you put Boogaard jerseys back on sale in the Hockey Lodge, they would still sell. His dedication to the military and the community is unrivaled, and his presence in Minnesota is certainly missed.
He will be received with the warmest welcome any former player can be met with. Will it be a loud standing ovation? Perhaps. It could be a rain of boos the fans meet him with, but related to his name, not his welcome. I would even expect a "Boo-gey, Boo-gey" chant at one point or another.
MAHLBERG: Boogaard will also be received warmly. He was a folk hero here and always a fan favorite. It was a bit sad to see him go this last summer, but clearly the Rangers overpaid. Brad Staubitz(notes) is a better hockey player and comes at a discount.
CONDUCT: I found Boogey immensely entertaining when I first started watching the Wild. All big and mean and mouthing off at some jerk on the other bench. Great theater. But then I started to understand cap hits and roster spots (and their effect all the way down the system), and began to see that the entertainment value isn't worth it for these heavyweights. Unlike Gabby, however, Boogey really gave all he could to the Wild and it didn't end awkwardly, so he will be very well received -- not only by those who still adore him but also by those who are glad he's gone.
DONOVAN: He is lucky we are letting him back into our building! I was never a Boogaard fan, and never will be. He threw the gloves a few times, big deal. Koivu has done that also! The last couple years, he barely even did that. Then he became almost like a target for the refs. Look at them wrong, and to the box he goes! It was a joke. The man cannot skate, he cannot score, and barely throws the gloves anymore. He is the "big guy" and no one wants to fight him anyway. (Go Staubitz!) He doesn't even belong in the NHL if you ask me. We lost Boogaard as well as Scott, and gained Nystrom and Staubitz for less money, we win all around on this one.
He will be cheered upon all night, trust me on this. Minny "fans" loved Boogaard when he was here. They still do, and mourn him to a point. But our "fans" sometimes get mixed signals, and may blame him for not being here anymore. There will be hundreds of Boogaard jerseys in the stands, and I bet they wave their free bobblehead, too!
3. Going to back to Gaborik: Now that he's in his second season with the Rangers, and knowing what he signed for, do you feel the Wild are a better franchise without him?
REYNOLDS: Are they are better franchise? That's a tricky question. They are a better franchise, yes. They are not anywhere near the threat they would be with him, but they are still better off without him. Much like two people who have been married are often better people without each other, despite many years of success together, Gaborik was a poison for this franchise and his absence makes them a much better group of people. His goals are missed, without a doubt. His presence and the drama it carried with it are absolutely not missed. So, yes, they are a better franchise, but they do not and will not win as many games as they would have with him.
MAHLBERG: The Wild are worse off without Marian. When healthy, he's a Top 5 scorer in the league. And as much as I like Mikko Koivu(notes), Marian was hockey electricity on skates. The Wild ended up using Gaborik's money on Martin Havlat(notes) who sometimes needs a jump start to get hot.
CONDUCT: It's hard to answer that question because so much went on with him while he was here, and around his departure, that fractured the relationship with the organization and with the fans. If you want to pretend all that didn't happen and say he left amicably, yeah, I think the Wild are worse off without him. Havlat is no replacement despite agent Allan Walsh's testimonials. With the pieces we have now, the young defensive talent coming up, imagine having that kind of game-changing ability back on this team in a healthy body? Wow.
DONOVAN: Yes I do. It was time to rebuild, and being the patient person that I am (except when watching the Wild play) I think it was good for the team. Fletcher has a plan, and it will happen, and Gabby did not fit in it. I never saw him as a team player. Although I spilled many drinks while watching him score, there was always something that did not sit right with me. There was a hint of arrogance at times, a hint of lackluster play at times, more than not, even though he would get point after point. He was definitely not a threat in the playoffs (glass man again). Gabby is the type of player that can fit into any team, but I think we are headed in the right direction without him. Koivu's new contract means more to me than re-signing Gabby ever would have. I want the grit, and the hard play, and the scoring, all in one. We may not have an 80-plus point man at this time (or maybe we do), but I will take eight or nine 20-point guys, with excitement, and grit over Gabby any day. He would have been a bigger cap hit than we needed for the return. Fletcher is doing an exceptional job in my opinion, and Gabby was not needed, period.
4. Now that there's been some separation, how do you view Gaborik's legacy with the Wild, and his place in franchise history?
REYNOLDS: His legacy is tainted by his attitude, as explained above. He is, without a doubt, the most exciting player the franchise has ever had. His talent is unrivaled, but will always be noted only with his inability to stay on the ice. He should have gone down as one of the best, but instead he will go down as a self indulged, injury plagued forward that had oodles of talent. His place in franchise history will be as the man who should have brought a Stanley Cup to town, but instead walked away for no return after years of bickering and injuries. No matter what promise he had, he never lived up to it while here. The best thing for fans is to just forget it ever happened.
MAHLBERG: Gaborik's place in Wild history? It's got to be at the top. How many teams have a player's bobblehead night on the very night they come back in a different uniform? Can you imagine Cleveland having a LeBron James night when the Miami Heat visit? Marian was the franchise's best player, period. Am I still bitter? Of course.
CONDUCT: I remember watching "Pardon the Interruption" the day after Gabby got those five goals against (ironically) the Rangers a couple of years ago. They show the clip and Tony Kornheiser goes, "I thought Marian Gaborik was a tennis player." That sort of sums up Gaborik's time with the Wild for me. Gabby has star potential and was on a team that just wasn't going to make any stars.
For me there was always an uneasiness about him as a fan. I never felt like he was 100% ours. I look at Brent Burns(notes) or Mikko Koivu, and when I think about those guys playing for another team, I feel a little queasy. It feels wrong. That was never the case with Gabby. He was the boyfriend leering at every blonde in the room while listlessly holding your hand. Doesn't matter what else he brought to the table, if you have any self-respect, you let a guy like that go.
But ... I have the guy on my fantasy team now and he's a straight up stud, so, you know, I wish him the very best. Except for Saturday night. All I ask is that the Wild don't hurt him.
DONOVAN: Being our No. 1 draft pick of the franchise, and giving what he gave to Minny, he will always be a huge part of the Wild's legacy. I am not so sure I agree with it, but facts and stats come to mind here. I remember all those moments he had, such as the five-goal game. But is it enough? He was the best goal scorer we have had to date. I am more prone to look at the workers out there, the Brunettes, the Koivus (watching him grow as a player has rocked!), the Burnsies (yet another!), the Schultzies ... and these are only the current players. I could go on forever on this, but I won't! If it was not for these guys, and then some over the years, Gabby wouldn't have had much. Personally, I will always remember him as the guy that could score, and score again, when not injured. Nothing more, nothing less.