ST. PAUL, Minn. - Think the life of a professional athlete is without problems? When it comes to a major snow storm, guys and gals who collect a paycheck for playing face the same struggles as everyone else.
Take the Minnesota Wild, for instance. The surging hockey club picked up a 3-1 win against Ottawa Monday night despite a white knuckle, clock watching commute to the Xcel Energy Center for a number of skaters.
Take Matt Dumba and Tyler Ennis, for instance. The two left their homes in Minneapolis in a three vehicle convoy with Jonas Brodin around 3:30 p.m., thinking they'd make it to the X in plenty of time. That was before they got stopped by side street gridlock, trapped behind a stuck Metro Transit bus for 30 minutes, and then hung up on eastbound I-94. Police came to provide an escort, which angered fellow motorists who were honking and trying to cut them off.
The guys were almost at the rink when Ennis somehow ran into Dumba's car.
"We made it like two hours and 30 minutes on the road without a crash, then we had one right on the intersection of 7th Street," Dumba told wild.com. "We gotta go check the cars; we didn't even really have time, we just ran in."
Team rules call for Wild players to be at the arena two hours before puck drop.
Along with teammate Mikhail Granlund, Dumba, Brodin and Ennis arrived about 10 minutes before warmups and scrambled to get into their gear. Forward Jason Zucker wasn't far ahead of them... it took him a whole two hours to drive in from Edina.
New Wild player Daniel Winnick decided he had enough of the storm-related gridlock after getting within a block or so of the X and not moving an inch for 15 minutes. He ended up pulling into a private parking lot, ditching his car and running the final stretch in his dress suit and leather loafers.
"It was literally like 0.2 miles away that it was a disaster," Winnick said. "So I just said, 'screw this,' and parked my car in a parking lot. As I was leaving, the guy was like, 'where are you going?' I'm like, 'I'm parking my car.' He usually has a sign up, but he was fine with it. So then I just walked over."
Coach Bruce Boudreau told wild.com that players were offered hotel rooms Monday night to be on the safe side, but few took the club up on that offer. Instead, they raised their heart rates and blood pressure, and learned the hard way how harrowing a snow drive can be.
"They all thought they were big and brave and could make it to the game," Boudreau said. "Not enough Canadians, I guess."