Not that I would 'personally' know, but I’ve been told most professional athletes playing at the minor league-level never quite expect the call from the BIG club when it comes. Such was the case for Minnesota Wild Defenseman and local kid-done-good Nick Seeler.
“It was just pure excitement”, says Nick. “I mean, it was just one of the best feelings I’ve ever had before. Knowing I was going to be able to have one of my dreams come true and play for the Wild, up here, especially at home too, it’s just great.”
At the time the phone rang Seeler was playing for the Iowa Wild in Des Moines, and had just finished having breakfast with his parents, Eden Prairie residents Kris and Dan.
“You truly don’t know whether you’re going to get the call or not so, I wasn’t expecting it," Nick recalled. "It was just after breakfast and it caught me off-guard, but in the best way.”
I first met Nick's dad Dan Seeler in the fall of 1981 when as a freshman at UMD I was invited to attend a party thrown by the men’s soccer team at nearby St. Scholastica. Turns out that this was the kind of party you’re not supposed to have any more (for good reason), where the freshmen on the team were “welcomed" to the team by their upper-classmen teammates.
I won’t go into detail, but my two lasting impressions from that night were; 1. Thank God I did not play soccer because I would not have fared well with the initiation ‘process’, and 2. Dan Seeler was Huge. How in the heck did he get away from his high school football coaches to play soccer?
In the years since that party I have remained in loose contact with Dan, or “Sal” as he’s better known to his former teammates. I've watched his daughter Kelly help the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team win a National Championship, then witnessed his son Nick play for the Gophers and get drafted by the Wild before being called-up to the NHL club in February.
And so, it was with mixed emotions that I watched Nick drop the gloves with Detroit Red Wings “enforcer” Luke Witkowski in a recent home game, wondering how Nick’s mom must have felt watching from the stands.
“Typical mom, she just wants to make sure that I’m all right”, says Seeler. “She understands that it’s a part of the game but again, she’s a great mom so she just wants me to be all right so, it was good that we were both OK after the fight.”
Listed as 6’2” and 200 lbs. Seeler appears smaller when you meet him in person, or maybe that’s just the “dad” in me. After the Wild’s win over the Red Wings several teammates credited the rookie defenseman for jump-starting the team by coming to the defense of Zach Parise, after Witkowski took a run at the Wild’s star forward. They appreciate the physical presence he brings to the Wild's defensive corps.
“It’s just important knowing that if guys are going to take runs at certain players they’re going to have to answer for that “, says Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. “That doesn’t mean that it has to happen every time, but just knowing that that accountability is there goes a long way with the group.”
That group includes Nick's head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“When you get up here for the first time you’re more cautious because you don’t want to make a mistake, but the more confidence you get you get back to playing the way you really play, and his play of being physical and competing has been tremendous for us,” said Nick's head coach. "He’s made plays. He’s not just come in and flipped pucks off the glass and tried to survive, he’s making passes, he’s seeing the ice and making really good plays and it’s fun to see a guy come in and in an opportunity you really wouldn’t expect him to get, he comes in and does a great job and solidifies himself a spot on the team.”
Seeler doesn’t fancy himself a fighter as much as a player whose role is to provide solid defense, while adding a physical presence.
“Just being tough in front, tough in the corners, you know it’s nothing fancy” says Seeler. “Just making that simple pass to the forwards to get them moving up the ice, pitching-in on offense when the opportunity presents itself and getting shots to the net.”
As for coming to the aid of a teammate, that was more instinctive and as Seeler sees it, something he’s happy to do for a team that’s made his transition to the pros as smooth as ice.
“I can’t say enough good things about them and their support towards me coming up because obviously they’ve done it so they know exactly how it feels, the nerves, the excitement of your first game, not knowing if you’re going to stick around, stiff like that.”
As a kid, Dan and Kris took Nick to plenty of Wild games. Now the kid is living his dream, even if it means an uncomfortable moment or two for mom and dad.
“It’s Just crazy” shares Nick. “It’s been so much fun. I went to plenty of games growing up, watching as a kid. “Now, to be able to play for them is just a dream come true I can’t even say, it’s just so exciting.”