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Coach gone Wild: Lemaire extends deal with Minnesota

10/12/2006 - NHL Minnesota Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Galvanized by an influx of talent and
experience added to the roster in the offseason, Jacques Lemaire
signed a multiyear contract extension on Wednesday to remain the
coach of the Minnesota Wild.

Lemaire, who has coached the Wild since its inaugural season in
2000, entered this year in the final year of his deal. Terms of the
new contract were not disclosed.

After the Wild spent millions on free agents Mark Parrish, Keith
Carney and Kim Johnsson, signed star Marian Gaborik to a contract
extension and traded for Pavol Demitra, Lemaire said he had no
hesitation about wanting to stay with the franchise he helped
build.

"It's a big change in the way I feel as a coach. I'm even more
excited than I was the first year here," the 61-year-old Lemaire
said. "I love to see them play. ... Their ability makes it a lot
easier for me."

The Wild gained respect in their first five seasons in the
league thanks in large part to Lemaire's hard-working style. The
team is 164-168-81 in five-plus seasons in the league and made a
stunning run to the Western Conference finals in the 2003 playoffs.

But fans grew restless after the team missed the playoffs last
season coming out of the lockout. It seems like Lemaire was growing
restless himself.

He spoke with GM Doug Risebrough in the summer about signing an
extension, but when asked Wednesday if he would have stayed in
Minnesota had the Wild not added all of that talent and leadership,
Lemaire hesitated.

"That is a good question, and I don't know what to think about
it," Lemaire said in his trademark thick French-Canadian accent.
"It was time for the organization to move up."

The investment is paying off early this season. The Wild are 3-0
for the first time in franchise history, exhibiting a strong
combination of goal-scoring, tough defense and, as usual, solid
goaltending.

The hard-to-please Lemaire showered praise on his players during
his press conference, clearly impressed with the way they play the
game and the skills they possess.

"It's fun to watch," he said. "It's exciting. It's fun for a
coach when they see players who have the ability to do things on
the ice."

He said when he was first hired to coach the expansion
franchise, he never dreamed he would be here this long.

"Not at all," Lemaire said. "I didn't know I would enjoy it
as much as I do right now after six, seven years here."

Risebrough praised Lemaire's leadership and teaching skills in a
press release issued by the team.

"Jacques is the right person for this job," Risebrough said.
"A statement as true today as it was the day he was hired."

His players seem to agree.

"He's a smart coach," Demitra said. "He knows what he's
talking about. We can learn a lot from him. We have so much respect
for what he's done in the past."

Lemaire won eight Stanley Cups as a player with the Montreal
Canadiens and coached the New Jersey Devils to the Cup in 1995.

"It's good for the organization and for the team," said
forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has played for the Wild for four
seasons. "Jacques is a really good coach. He knows how to win."

Many think he'll be winning a lot more this year, and Lemaire
didn't shy away from those expectations.

"We've worked hard to get to this point," Lemaire said. "In
the near future, we'll see exactly where this team is going to go,
and I want to be a part of it."