Players adjusting to emergency
OTTAWA -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Nick Schultz put on shoulder pads he bought for $200 at a local store. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom wore a catching glove with burn marks across it and backup Josh Harding had an old facemask with the wrong number.
After a van fire reduced much of the team's equipment to ruins Friday in an Ottawa parking lot, assistant equipment managers Brent Proulx and Matt Benz flew back to Minneapolis to scrounge together backups. Head equipment manager Tony DaCosta remained in Ottawa to assess the damage and salvage what he could.
The destruction of their equipment did not change the circumstances. The Wild still had to play the Senators Saturday night, a game they lost 4-1.
"Basically, nine guys are fine," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said Saturday morning, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "After that it was kind of total destruction or bits and pieces."
The second-string equipment landed in Ottawa at about 9 a.m., after which everyone set about preparing skates, sticks and other gear for the game.
Backstrom and Harding were the main concerns: both lost nearly everything. The Wild called up 23-year-old goalie Anton Khudobin from AHL Houston in case the other two netminders were uncomfortable with the backup equipment.
"It's not the way you want to prepare for a game but the trainers did an unbelievable job to even make this game possible tonight," said Backstrom, who made 20 saves in the loss.
According to the Canadian Press, Backstrom broke in new pads at Saturday morning's shootaround, while working with his partially-charred glove.
"It's just unbelievable," forward Andrew Brunette said, his teammates busy cutting and taping new sticks.
"Your first thought is to make sure everybody was OK, obviously, but I never thought it was as serious as it was. To lose the amount of equipment we did, especially our goalies, it's a little bit of an obstacle here to overcome," he said.
Brunette was one of the fortunate ones to have recovered all of their equipment intact.
"My stuff's OK. I was one of the lucky ones," he said, pointing to the adjacent locker of teammate Antti Miettinen. "Guys like Antti beside me lost everything. ... Our goalies, to have new gear and wearing stuff they're not used to, it's a pretty big deal."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune provided a rundown of who was most affected by the fire: captain Mikko Koivu; Martin Havlat; Andrew Ebbett; Miettinen; Cal Clutterbuck; Shane Hnidy; John Scott; Robbie Earl; Backstrom; Harding; James Sheppard and Nick Schultz.
Schultz and his teammates tried to remain upbeat.
"I don't think [DaCosta] wants to pay the $200 for the shoulder pads, but hopefully he'll reimburse me," he said.
The Wild had won 10 of 13 before Saturday night's loss. They play two more games before Christmas Day, so players won't get much time to adapt to their new equipment.
"The skates are going to be hard," Havlat said. "Just to get used to them, some guys need a few days, some guys need three or four weeks. It's going to be an interesting game tonight."
No cause has been determined and to add insult to injury, a flu bug is sweeping through the team.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.