Posted by: Feldman
Hockey notes in June? Why the heck not?
* High school hockey teams around the state are into their summer practice/scrimmage schedules. I'll try to get out to the Rochester teams practices and post some updates. They can practice the rest of this week, then have a mandatory week off for the Independence Day holiday, then practice again the following week.
* Former Roseau and Warroad high school boys hockey coach Bruce Olson died Tuesday in Rochester after a battle with liver cancer that spread quickly. Olson was just 55 years old. He led Roseau to the Class AA state championship in 1999. He also coached the Bemidji State women's hockey team for three-plus seasons. He played college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth, graduating from the school in 1979. He had 93 points in 137 career games.
* The P-B's Scott Kolb broke the news a couple of weeks ago that Austin has a new boys hockey coach. Erik LaRock, who played college hockey at St. Mary's in Winona and has coached in Austin Youth Hockey for three years, will be the Packers' new head coach. LaRock has also coached the Austin girls golf team the past two seasons. He replaces Tim Peterson, who was the Packers head coach for three seasons.
* Another Big Nine Conference and Section 1A team, Faribault, will also have a new head coach. Dean Weasler will replace Brad Ryan as the boys hockey head man. Weasler was the head JV coach at Farmington the past two seasons. He has also coached at Burnsville, Eastview and with the St. Cloud State women's team.
* The Star Tribune reported today that four standout high school players have decided to leave their teams early to play in the USHL. Among them is center John Wiitala of defending Section 1AA champion Lakeville South. Wiitala, who had been voted a team captain for this coming season, will now play for Waterloo of the USHL. That's good news for the rest of the section; bad news for high school hockey that these guys are leaving. I don't blame these guys for moving on to the USHL, I just hate to see good high school players leave their teams, especially teams that have a shot at getting to the state tournament.
The other three leaving their schools are Maple Grove defenseman Jordan Gross (USNTDP or Green Bay), Hill-Murray forward Jake Guentzel, son of Gophers' assistant Mike Guentzel (Sioux City) and Duluth East forward Connor Valesano (Sioux Falls).
* I'd like to tell you that I was told at the Wild Road Tour on Monday that it's a lock that Zach Parise will sign with our favorite NHL club on Sunday when free agency opens. I'd like to tell you that, but I can't. Like the rest of you, though, I've read/heard that the Wild is going to throw Craig Leipold's checkbook at him at 11:00:01 a.m. Sunday. I wouldn't be shocked if the Wild offer Parise $9-$10 million/year over an 8-to-10-year deal.That's not a huge deal in the NBA, NFL or MLB, but it's as big of annual salary as you'll see in the NHL. Parise may not sign with the Wild, but they won't be outbid. I could see him winding up in Pittsburgh. I could see him winding up in Detroit. New Jersey seems like more of a long shot to me, only because, if he absolutely wanted to stay there, he would've worked it out already.
As for defense, my fellow Faceoff writer, Phersy, is convinced the Wild needs to take the bank to Ryan Suter's 110-plus acre ranch. Personally, where defense is concerned, I'd rather see the Wild make a strong push for someone like Florida's Jason Garrison (now that Washington's Dennis Wideman has had his rights traded to Calgary, and signed a 5-year deal with the Flames). Garrison is a strong two-way player who'll command a big salary, but not in the range of Suter's.
TSN -- Canada's version of ESPN -- has a great free agency tracker that you can check out here.