Sunday, July 8, 2012

Minnesota Wild Road Tour comes to Austin

Some days, my job at the Austin Post-Bulletin is really just the best thing ever. The Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour stopped in Austin, Minn. for a visit a couple weeks ago, and I was the lucky journalist who got to report on it. Anytime I get to overlap some sports into my workday, it's a good thing.

The tour had a couple different sets of players and Wild representatives traveling in parts of Minnesota. The guys that stopped in Austin were Charlie Coyle, Matt Kassian, Wild alum Antti Laaksonen and Wild television color analyst Mike Greenlay. I had the chance to interview all of them.

I got to the parking lot where the big tent was set up for the tour's arrival. I saw a few fans already lined up (so I got some interviews out of the way early), and then about 70 kids with matching t-shirts from the local Kids Korner group. They were pretty amused when the Austin Bruins mascot Bruiser showed up to entertain them while they waited. It was like they didn't even need to see anyone from the Wild to have their days made.

Players arrive, Spam and all
The Wild contingent arrived, Kassian with a can of Spam in hand. I knew from following him and Greenlay on Twitter that they had already made a stop at the Spam Museum earlier that morning. Like the patient journalist that I am, I mostly hung back in the tent and watched as the line of fans snaked around to get to the tables of players waiting with their autographed photos.

Kassian was definitely the most personable of the group, not that the others weren't, but he made sure to talk with each fan as he or she came by. It wasn't just a signature-and-go kind of style for him. He was so talkative that sometimes he held up the line, as Laaksonen sat at the other end waiting for the next fan.

Time for the interviews
Greenlay was a good multitasker, as one of the Wild media relations gals pointed out to me, so I chatted with him over his shoulder as he continued to greet fans and sign autographs. His hockey photos to give away were of him in goalie gear for the Edmonton Oilers. A picture that he said was taken before Coyle, who's 20, was born.

I grabbed Laaksonen after that, for some more multitasking. Maybe some didn't remember him from the Wild's early days, but I certainly did. I was also surprised to learn that he likes to fly fish and he travels down to the Rochester area for this hobby.

Coyle was a nice guy, too. Kassian shook my hand, and did sort of a fist-bump handshake. I asked about the Spam Museum, the potential for a lockout to start the season and about what it's like to get out on the tours like this and see the fans. A car horn started sounding during our interview, but he kept his cool and actually worked that in to his answers in a good way to poke fun at what was going on.

I got back to the office and was really excited to share my day with my co-workers. They couldn't believe I didn't get autographs from the players. Well, I like to think I'm an ethical journalist, so that was out of the question. And besides, I got to interview all of them. How cool is that?

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