by Bruce Strand, Sports Editor
Nate Prosser says he watched every Stanley Cup playoff game he could while growing up, mesmerized by “the intensity and the emotion in all of them.”
The former Elk River skater was able to experience all that drama for himself in the last month, as a defenseman on the Minnesota Wild, who beat the Colorado Avalanche in seven games, then lost to the defending champion Chicago Black Hawks in six games, most of them thrillers.
“To wind up being a part of it yourself is amazing,” said Prosser. “Especially with this team. It’s a very tight-knit group and a lot of fun to be around.”
At home, the Wild won five of six playoff games before thundering crowds.
“You do feed off all that emotion. As soon as the National Anthem ends and it gets really loud.”
Prosser, 28, finishing his fifth season (including partial seasons) with the Wild, was part of the most engrossing, high-profile run of any Minnesota team in several years. The last team to grip so many of the state’s sports fans would be the Brett Favre-led Vikings reaching the NFC finals in 2009.
“You drive around and see all the Wild stuff on cars,” Prosser reflected. “Neighbors come over to talk about how they’re watching and really nervous and cheering for us. People around here were dying for a good team.”
The run ended when Black Hawks goalie Corey Crawford stopped 34 shots in a 2-1 overtime win over the Wild at the Xcel Center on May 13.
“Crawford was definitely out of his mind,” Prosser said. “We’d have odd man rushes and breakaways and he’d still make the save.”
Like most of the Wild players and fans, Prosser felt like “we were right with them, every game,” adding that “the future is bright around here.”
Prosser doesn’t know if that future includes him, as the two-year deal he signed in 2012 has run out. After all, it’s a business.
“The Wild will sit down and decide who they want to have back,” Prosser said. “If I’m not in their plans, then July 1 is when free agency starts. It’s always been my dream to play in the NHL as a regular, so any team that comes calling, I’ll listen.”
Prosser and wife Brittani welcomed their second daughter in early March.
Prosser broke his finger in Game 5 of the Colorado series but still played in five of the remaining seven games with his finger numbed down. In 10 games, he didn’t score, but had a plus-two rating.
In the regular season, Prosser had two goals, both of them game-winners, six assists and a plus-two rating, in 53 games. In his NHL career he’s played in 126 games.