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July 11, 2012
Wild owner: Without new practice rink, we can't sign free agen — oh, hi, guys!
Apparently still peeved at being left out of the Vikings stadium subsidy deal, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold interrupted his announcement of the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on Monday to call on St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to build his team a new $50 million practice rink. And why should it do that?
"[Paris and Suter's] agents came to us," Leipold said. "They had heard that sometimes we've got to go downstairs, the players put their equipment on, they take their skates and sticks, they get on the bus, they drive over to St. Thomas [Arena] to practice. They wanted to know, how often did that happen because they're concerned about. We went through the whole list, and it looked like it would happen maybe 14 times. So we told them. And we also told them we're working very hard with Mayor Coleman to get a practice facility. We gave them that commitment we'd work on it."
Catch what just happened there? A sports team owner, in the middle of announcing that he's spending $196 million on two top free agents, called on the city to pay for his new practice facility because it's hurting his ability to sign free agents. Where's the picture of Leipold here?
Xcel Energy Center public affairs director Bill Huepenbecker, at least, took the more traditional route of stumping for public money, worrying that now that the Target Center in Minneapolis is getting public renovation funds, his arena will be at a disadvantage of luring major concerts. Which is still the old "Everybody else has a new toy, why don't I?" argument — and doesn't actually explain how a new hockey practice rink would appeal to concert promoters — but at least he wasn't announcing a new concert series when he said it.