Deep in the bowels of the stately but unpretentious EHEC league headquarters, in a sub-basement three flights of stairs down from an unmarked door in the lobby, over and through a hallway blockaded by a concerning stockpile of moldering fertilizer from a previous regime, there is an unused washroom with a locked supply closet, on the doors of which there is a poster advising 'to beware of the leopard' but within contains the last of the fleet of 'official' EHEC fax machines purchased wholesale in 2009 and then never pressed into widespread use as the obvious appeal of email and amusing full-colour scans of various bodyparts became immediately apparent to the entire cadre of General Managers around the league.
Still, there is a fax machine down there and it did received a small flurry of transmissions in January, as our masked journalist/luchador was able to uncover, reprinted here:
The first: "I'mm back,'
Second: "Shit, sorry -- 'I'm back.'"
Third: "Zaq. This is Zaq by the way. From the time with the thing."
Fourth: "You know what, I'll send an email, that's better, let's try an email. This is a dumb bit."
A bit of proper correspondence and paperwork later and the league office announced the return of Zaq Haslam, previously general manager of the Florida Panthers from January of 2010 until sometime in the off-season of 2015 when he simply wandered off and never returned to work. Bit of a recurring dream, to be quite honest. An in-depth breakdown of his tenure with the Cats would be tedious at best -- simpler to say his work was undistinguished and ultimately unfulfilling for most if not all Panthers fans, his lasting impact on the franchise largely keyed on drafting and developing Connor Brickley and missing the playoffs a lot of times.
So, what hope does this offer the faithful of the Minnesota Wild? Three main points to be made here:
1- The state of hockey in the State of Hockey has been dismal bordering on 'recommended for psychiatric observation' for more than decade now, with the team's only playoff appearance in EHEC's debut season, back in 2009/10. There's little to worry about it terms of 'can he possibly make things worse,' short of giving away certain Russian defenders for free given their status as unwitting pawns of tedious supposed 'culture war.' (Perish the thought. Spoilers for anyone not familiar with America's long losing streak in wars against concepts -- see: 'Communism,' 'Drugs,' 'Terror' -- there are no winners) Damning with faint praise here, but having a General Manager with experience and even a middling attention span at least offers opportunities for improvement over the previous caretaker arrangements. Surely. Probably.
2- The Wild retired the jersey number 1 at their first ever home game, October 11th, 2000, in honour of 'the fans' in advance of the fans actually showing any particular level of support to the then still quite unknown and unproven quality of the franchise. This came after the state of Minnesota loaned $65 million to the city of Saint Paul and the city issued bonds to cover the other half of $130 million arena cost. Thought the city eventually was forgiven the outstanding balance of the loan ($32.7 million) from the state, the city still owes over $40 million in bonds on the arena as of 2022, the team's rent payments slowly chipping away at the balance while the franchise value inches closer to the billion mark. The point has momentarily escaped this writer, other than to recall that the new General Manager is versed with popular movements from his time in Florida and in the event of say, a revolution or a default on the life of the team's owner, would be an ideal steward of the transition to public/community ownership of a team supposedly so thankful for their hometown fans they raised a banner to the rafters. Food for thought, surely.
3- The team is not in terrible shape, from a personnel perspective. This is a very young team, the 23 man roster averaging 24.3 years of age as of the start of February. Cap trouble is not in ready evidence, though it's an easy thing to waltz into. Alexis Lafreni??re is one of the very best young players in the league and there are bright spots all over. From a results perspective, the team looks stuck in the middle this year, though the current three game win streak feels... almost nice, a very simple pleasure, like shaking a sugar packet before adding it to your second coffee of the morning.
Five Questions with the New GM
How have you kept up with EHEC during your sabbatical? Any observations from the last six seasons?
-- Haven't watched a second of EHEC hockey since 2015, eager to learn what sort of media contract the league is operating with now, actually. Who in the hell is Cole Perfetti?
Any hints on your initial ambitions for the club?
-- Really going to try and embrace Wildness as a concept. Consider -- untamed, natural, not cultivated, but also, unruly, unrestrained, not subject to regulation and control, and further -- emotionally overcome, passionate, enthusiastic, turbulent, agitated, and finally -- beyond convention, deviating from the intended course, fantastic and sensational. Free. We, not thee--
Okay, but like, winning hockey games?
-- Oh sure. let's do that.
You seem unconvinced.
-- I want us to compete. As a luchador, you must understand that victory and defeat play equal parts in the story of struggle, though we do not have the reassurances of a narrative being consciously built and amended -- we must take what comes and hope that it satisfies our passions. May we be our best, may fortune follow our best and lead us to catharsis or agony, I hope it's a spectacle.
I would appreciate if you could keep it kayfabe.