Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - With his head still spinning following the official lift of the NHL Lockout earlier this week, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold christened the newly renovated KFAN Pressbox for a sit down chat with KFAN's Dan Barreiro and regular FAN guest Lou Nanne.
Maybe it was because he finally had an excuse to get out of the office, maybe it was because he could finally display his shiny new toys he had acquired in the offseason (Parise & Suter) or maybe it was simply because hockey was back, but Mr. Leipold was all smiles this particular Tuesday afternoon and can't wait to share in his excitement with the fans that had gathered.
"This is like Christmas," Leipold exclaimed! "In fact it's better than Christmas because we've got so much activity going on. Everybody's busy, we're playing hockey again, we're working hockey, we're thinking hockey. You walk in the arena and you can hear the skates on the ice. It just makes me feel so good."
It was with the official signing of the Memo of Understanding on Saturday evening that the NHL lockout was officially lifted. Since that moment, the hockey world has been on fast forward. Training Camps have been scheduled and kicked out, schedules were frantically arranged and released and players still on the free agent market began signing in cities that they would make their home for the shortened 48-game season. As for the Wild, they took care of much of their free agent work during the offseason when they landed two of the biggest free agents on the market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
"They're difference makers," Leipold said of the pair of stars. "These players don't become available. I remember when Chuck [Fletcher] said, 'Craig are you sitting down? We think we can get both [Parise & Suter].' It's the kind of decision where you don't wait long. Is it a risky move? Absolutely, we know it is. But they're difference makers and it was the right decision to make, let's go for it and we're all in."
While most of the focus recently has been on the expedited 48-game schedule, Leipold and the Wild are still looking to the future and what's to come for the team. Specifically in the 2013-14 season and specifically on the topic of realignment.
Asked if he thought that realignment would still be in the plans for the newly bound NHL Leipold confidently said "Yes it will, and it will next season."
"What I know is you won't find a more active owner banging on the commissioner," Leipold said. "This is a daily conversation and as he reminds me, 'We've already voted on it. It was approved by the Board of Governors. It doesn't have to go back.' I feel really good about next year."
The new alignment is rumored to take the Wild off of the West Coast and pin them against opponents like the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators.
Leipold went on to explain that no team in the NHL is hurt by the current alignment as the Minnesota Wild.
"For this 48 game season we have the longest travel," Leipold explained. "We have more miles that we'll travel than any other team in the national hockey league…our players hate it because they're traveling all the time…That is a serious competitive disadvantage that we say is not acceptable, we're going to have a new realignment."
Aj Mansour covers the Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions on this post or others in the designated comment box below. For Wild updates and breaking Wild news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN