VANCOUVER – When he got the call Monday that he had been traded by the team he loved and wanted to play for forever, Nate Schmidt was sitting in a truck out in a field at his uncle’s farm near St. Cloud, Minn.
He was stunned and emotional. But it was the perfect place for Schmidt to be, near his family, girlfriend and some of his oldest buddies.
The hurt was still evident the next morning when on his video call with reporters covering his new team, the Vancouver Canucks, the 29-year-old was asked about leaving Las Vegas and the Golden Knights, who helped heal that city when the expansion team opened its first National Hockey League season a few days after the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting of 471 people at a music festival just off the famous Vegas Strip.
You don’t ever leave something like that behind. If you care about people, you can’t.
“We healed together,” Schmidt said. “I was down on The Strip that night. It was crazy, something I’ll never forget. You remember things like it was yesterday. You feel a bond in that moment. You’re part of the fabric in the community. That’s what you remember most.”
Later, in a phone interview with Sportsnet, Schmidt explained: “Vegas, you were there from the beginning. We went through an outrageous tragedy. It was really just about being part of the community. We cancelled practice (after the shooting) and were like, we’ve got to get out there and do what we can, go to the blood drive. There were things like that. You’re going to miss that.
“The trade was really tough. It’s very emotional when it happens. It’s hard sometimes to see the bigger picture and the opportunity presenting itself in the (first few) hours after that. It was difficult. For me, I found out when it happened, and that was it. That’s the hardest thing to come to terms with. It takes time for that initial shock to wear off to (say), ‘Hey, this is where we’re going. This is what’s happening.’ That’s when you can start building that excitement, you can start thinking about what the next step is.”
In Washington, where general manager George McPhee signed Schmidt as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota years before both ended up in Vegas, the Capitals liked to say there was “happy” and there was “Nate Schmidt happy.”
Nate Schmidt happy, for those lucky enough to see it, is on another level. The defenceman is one of the most ebullient, talkative and thoughtful players in the NHL.
Seriously, just go to HockeyDB.com and look at Schmidt’s smiling mug. Try to be that happy.
Even while still processing his shock trade by Vegas, which was desperate enough for salary-cap space it surrendered its 22-minute-a-night defenceman to the Canucks for a third-round draft pick just one year into Schmidt’s six-year, $35.7-million contract extension, the Minnesotan was brimming with energy Tuesday. He was quick to laugh, and had probably the most engaging player Zoom call since the global pandemic hit the NHL in March.
He was delighted that a reporter who covered the Canucks-Knights playoff series in Edmonton without fans picked up Schmidt’s habit of “whooping” to call for the puck rather than yelling, like words, to teammates. Truthfully, we think some people outside Rogers Place could also hear Schmidt.
“If guys hear it, they know it’s me,” he said. “And it’s always really loud and piercing.”
He was self-deprecating, generous in his praise for Canucks players and Vancouver, which he said has always been his favourite NHL city to visit. Schmidt said later he has never had the Canucks on his 10-team no-trade list.
He called Canuck Brock Boeser, a fellow Minnesotan who plays summer hockey with Schmidt in the Twin Cities, a “good egg.”
He said he remembered Vancouver star Elias Pettersson “spinning me into a top.”
He said goalie Thatcher Demko’s performance in pushing the Knights to seven games in the Western Conference semifinal “really put a hurt on our mojo.”
And he marvelled at Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes, a likely partner for Schmidt when next season begins.
“His hips swivel,” he said. “That’s how he shakes and bakes on the blue line. As much as I want to do that, I don’t have it. I don’t think anyone has that in their game the way Quinn Hughes does. I can get maybe one hip going. It’s a very rare talent to have, and it’s really fun to watch.”
Asked about his positive outlook, Schmidt said it’s just the way he was raised by his parents, JoAnn and Tom, in St. Cloud.
The family started a convenience store-gas station chain in Central Minnesota when the three kids were old enough to provide cheap labour.
“Schmidty’s Snacks and Gas,” Nate said. “Or just Schmidty’s. That’s where I grew up working and I’m the youngest, so I always got all the jobs no one else wanted. I cleaned out the canopies for bugs, cleaned the car wash. Car washes are actually one of the grossest places you can think of because of all the dirt and grime. I’d power wash that, paint the gas islands, scrub them down with a wire brush.
“My mom and dad preached to treat people the way you want to be treated. I always try to treat people with respect and just the way I’d want them to treat me. It’s just kind of the way I am. I like being invested in what I’m doing and the people who are invested in me as well.”
In a way, it’s a wonderful thing that Schmidt was “wounded” so much by the Vegas trade because it shows how much he cared about his team and community. It means he could grow to care just as much about the Canucks and Vancouver.
The nearest thing he owns to Canucks blue is a decade-old sweatshirt from the Fargo Force, the United States Hockey League team Schmidt played for before starting university, so he pulled that out of a drawer for his Zoom call.
“Honestly, it’s been a huge help how many guys have reached out to me,” he said. “And having (former Capital) Braden Holtby there – he’s one of my best friends in hockey – it makes it a lot easier.
“I’ve been talking to some of the guys in Vancouver and one of the best things and one of the things I’ve heard about the most is how tightly knit the group was. That’s what gets you excited about what the future holds for you. I hope the guys aren’t too sensitive about me being too loud and goofy sometimes in the locker room. I guess that’s what I’m most afraid of.”
Not the constant, unyielding attention of playing on what Schmidt described as hockey’s biggest stage?
“I guess it’s TBD,” he said. “That first year in Vegas, we were kind of rockstars as well. Not the same kind of rockstars that hockey players are in Canada, but you understand what comes with it. There are a lot of people who know hockey and are avid fans. But if you win, you’re looked at it like it’s forever in Canada. That’s awesome.”
Just wait until he really warms up to the idea.
NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend for upcoming season – Sportsnet.ca
The NHL has postponed the 2021 NHL Winter Classic and the 2021 NHL All-Star Weekend.
The Winter Classic was set to feature the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Minnesota’s Target Field on Jan. 1, 2021, while the Florida Panthers were set to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center.
The postponements come “due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus,” the league said via a statement, adding that it intends to return to Minnesota and Florida for these events in the future.
“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said via a release.
“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended.
“We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”
The league’s release added that the postponement announcement does not affect the NHL and NHLPA’s previously stated goal of starting the next NHL season on or around Jan. 1, 2021.
Vikings trade Yannick Ngakoue to Ravens for multiple picks
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for draft picks on Thursday, less than two months after acquiring the fifth-year pass rusher in a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ngakoue is tied for fourth in the NFL with five sacks in six games, including two forced fumbles, but the Vikings entered their bye week with a 1-5 record and thus more incentive to focus on the future than stay competitive in 2020.
“This was an opportunity that I felt would accomplish both the short and long term as we move forward, but these decisions aren’t easy to make,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
With Everson Griffen gone via free agency and Danielle Hunter injured since the beginning of training camp with a potentially season-ending neck injury, the Vikings on Aug. 31 sent a second-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2022 for Ngakoue. He wanted to leave the Jaguars after accumulating 37 1/2 sacks in four years and called his arrival in Minnesota “a breath of fresh air.”
The Vikings have Ifeadi Odenigbo in place at defensive end, and fourth-round draft pick D.J. Wonnum will now be in line to start at the other spot.
“What you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.
Minutes after Spielman’s previously scheduled video news conference with reporters, NFL Network reported Hunter has decided to have surgery. The Vikings were initially hoping he’d be able to return with rest and rehabilitation, and Spielman said acquiring Ngakoue was not related to Hunter’s injury. Since then, outside linebacker Anthony Barr was also lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered on Sept. 20.
“You try to readjust with some of the top playmakers you don’t have, especially on the defensive side. That’s what the coaches are doing right now,” Spielman said.
With the trade deadline approaching on Nov. 3, the Vikings could try to trade some other high-priced veterans, with perhaps safety Anthony Harris, left tackle Riley Reiff or tight end Kyle Rudolph enticing another team to part with a draft pick or two. Spielman steadfastly refused to commit to a full-on rebuild.
“Our goal every week is to go out there and win football games. You have to balance out both. I still think we have a very talented team,” Spielman said.
The Vikings didn’t disclose specifics of the acquired draft selections. ESPN reported the Ravens will send a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.
Both teams are on their bye week.
The Ravens (5-1) could use Ngakoue to enhance a pass rush that has been productive of late but could use the help. Despite getting seven sacks against Cincinnati two weeks ago, five of those came from defensive backs. Defensive end Calais Campbell was acquired via trade, also from Jacksonville, during the last off-season. He had three of Baltimore’s six sacks last week in a 30-28 win at Philadelphia, but Ngakoue ought to minimize the need to send extra rushers and allow the Ravens to generate more pressure from their front four, just as the Vikings were intending.
“A quarterback can’t throw the ball if he’s on his back. So, if you can’t get there with four, you send five. If you can’t get there with five, send six. That’s the way it goes,” pass defenceco-ordinator Chris Hewitt said.
The Ravens are fourth in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
“We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass rusher who makes us better. Yannick grew up here. He’s the type of person we welcome in our building. Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals.”
Source: – Sportsnet.ca
Report: Ravens acquire DE Ngakoue – TSN
Yannick Ngakoue is on the move again.
The Minnesota Vikings have traded the defensive end to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2022.
Vikings and Ravens finalizing a trade to send DE Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
Vikings initially sent 2021 second-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to Jags. Now get most back.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 22, 2020
Through six games this season, Ngakoue has recorded 12 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
In his fifth year out of Maryland, Ngakoue was acquired by the Vikings from the Jacksonville Jaguars – with whom he spent the first four seasons of his career – at the end of August.
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