ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Just about every Stanley Cup Playoffs series has a Minnesota flavor.
In Winnipeg, it’s about the captain of the Jets. Blake Wheeler grew up in the Twin Cities and has earned his NHL stripes after an exciting high school and college start.
It was quite a career at Breck High School. Part of a state championship football team, a part of a state championship hockey team, and oh yeah, then drafted by Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes. That’s a healthy high school.
“Yeah we had a great football team, state champs the same year back at the Metrodome. I still have some rug burns from that,” Wheeler said. “Great memories.”
And then there was his signature as a Gopher, an overtime game-winner against North Dakota as he sprawled on the ice.
“It’s been a special place for me. Lot of great memories here and it doesn’t make it easy or fun coming to play this team but it’s always a pretty special experience to come and just reflect on some of the times you’ve had in this building, good and bad,” Wheeler said.
He’s now back to beat Minnesota, as a captain for Winnipeg.
“It’s great to see all the fans here. Some of the Minnesota fans were in our building too. Geographically it’s a natural rivalry,” Wheeler said.
He is doing it against players that watched him as youngsters, now sharing the ice.
“He’s a super-skilled guy and I grew up watching him,” Wild defenseman Nick Seeler said. “He’s a heck of a player.”
So he enjoys the ride of the NHL and he understands his good fortune. But he’s not ready to look back on it all, not just yet.
“When it’s all said and done you’ll reflect and realize how lucky you are and how fortunate you’ve been, but I’m right in the thick of it right now,” Wheeler said.