Back on Ice
by Molly Schuster
When the North Stars left Minnesota, Darby Hendrickson never thought that he would someday play for his home team again, but his dream to play professional hockey never died. He graduated from Richfield High School and went on to be an outstanding college player at the University of Minnesota. He was drafted by Toronto in 1990 and came back home in 2000 after being picked up by the expansion team Minnesota Wild. We talk to Hendrickson about his career and what it's meant to play for a hometown crowd.
MS: You've played for teams like Toronto, New York, and Vancouver. What's it like coming back and playing in Minnesota?
DH: It's been great. It was fun to see and live in other cities. Hockey is a big sport in Canada, so it was fun to experience, but you know, there's no place like home. It's been a great opportunity, and it's been a great group of guys to be with from the start. Overall, the guys have been here from the beginning, and the fans have been awesome. Everything has been done right here. The rink is beautiful, and we sell out every game. We have strong ownership and management and very good coaches, so there's a reason why things are going in the right direction.
MS: You've had several rivalries throughout your career, at Richfield, at the U of M, and in your professional career. What is your favorite rivalry?
DH: In high school, it was probably playing Edina, because they seemed to always beat us. In college, Wisconsin was one of our big rivals. So far here, I think it's hard to tell who our rivals are because we're so new as a team, but I think the fact that the Dallas [North] Stars were a former team here always makes the excitement level very high.
MS: Do you think that it's more of a fan motivated rivalry?
DH: I think so. It's exciting for us as players, but I think it's the fans. But I feel what they're feeling too, because I grew up here. I grew up hoping to one day play pro hockey and play [for] the North Stars. It was sad when they left, but it wasn't like the dream died because I still had the dream to play professionally. But hockey is so big in this state, that something was missing.
MS: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
DH: I think Neal Broten is a lot of kids' favorite. He was a great player. He won in college, he won a gold medal in the olympics, and he eventually won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey, so he set a high bar.
DH: Yeah, I did. I took a face-off against him when I was in Toronto. It was fun for me to play against a guy I looked up to. And whether or not he knew who I was, I knew who he was.
MS: You've had some injuries of late, most recently your arm and last year your season-ending eye injury. How do you stay prepared, both mentally and physically, to come back to the game?
DH: It's tough to be out of the lineup, especially when your team's doing well. You want to be part of the action. But I guess, if anything, there's maybe a skill that I'm learning. I think when you're injured, you're never comfortable being out. You have to be patient. Experience helps to maintain a focus. I think the biggest thing is just being positive. You've gotta pull for the guys.
MS: How have those injuries affected the way you play now?
DH: The eye feels great, the wrist is good too. With the eye, I had the whole summer to recoup. It was scary and it took a long time [to heal]. Unfortunately, you have to sit out a long time, but you come back feeling healthy. I think when you're injured you're at the rink longer and more [often] to work your way back. Being on the ice-there's nothing better!