Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL -- There’s a lot the Minnesota Wild can learn from the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, especially considering the two franchises aren’t much different in the grand scheme of things. While the Wild look like a team that has no business being mentioned as a Stanley Cup contender next season, neither did the Blues this time last year. After six consecutive playoff appearances for St. Louis, a disappointing season then had the Blues watching the NHL playoffs from home last season as the Washington Capitals went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.
EAGAN, Minn. — No matter what Chad Beebe did for the Vikings last season, comparisons to his father, former NFL receiver Don Beebe, followed him every step of the way. And that made sense. It seemed like the only way to rationalize how an undersized 5-foot-10, 180-pound slot receiver out of Northern Illinois could ever succeed at the next level. Essentially, if Don Beebe could play nearly a decade in the NFL despite lack of size, then Chad Beebe at least had a chance, right?
EAGAN, Minn. -- While the Vikings have spent most of the spring adjusting to a new offense, veteran coach Gary Kubiak has been on the sidelines doing some adjusting of his own. After stepping away from the game a few years ago to focus on continuing health issues, Kubiak finally felt ready to get back in the game, and the Vikings provided that platform earlier this year, hiring him to serve as a right-hand man of sorts to head coach Mike Zimmer, as well as an offensive adviser to new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
EAGAN, Minn. -- Stefon Diggs was present for the start of the Vikings’ mandatory minicamp Tuesday, June 11, at TCO Performance Center in Eagan after parachuting in and out of the team facility last month during organized team activities. Although the practices Diggs missed were voluntary by definition, his repeated absences were a little disconcerting, especially considering the Vikings are in the midst of installing a new scheme under offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Lynx wrapped up Monday’s practice at Mayo Clinic Square, rookie Jessica Shepard was in the middle of the team huddle, leaning on a pair of crutches. If that was any indication, Shepard is still very much a part of the team. She’s just going to have to get used to a different role after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Sparks at Target Center.
EAGAN, Minn. — Playing football growing up in Hawaii, Hercules Mata’afa had to play every position, just like everybody else. “It’s all backyard football out there,” said Mata’afa, from Lahaina, a smallish town on the island of Maui. “All the boys lived close to each other, so we would get a football and go to the park and play for hours.” Playing every position, Mata’afa learned how to adapt, something that has served him well in the decade-plus since then as he tries to chase down his childhood dream.
OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s fitting that the new kids on the block at this year’s Women’s College World Series had to battle the biggest bully of them all in their debut. And while the Gophers softball team appeared overwhelmed at times during Thursday’s opening-round game against 12-time national champion UCLA, they made a game of it down the stretch before losing 7-2 at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. “It’s our first time in program history,” coach Jamie Trachsel said before the game. “Why not try to slay the ultimate dragon?”
EAGAN, Minn. -- As far as first impressions go, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was instantly drawn to rookie lineman Garrett Bradbury, if nothing else for his sense of style. “He tucks his shirt in every day,” Cousins said. “I think that sends a message right there. He is ready to work.
MINNEAPOLIS — Nelson Cruz was not activated from the 10-day injured list Friday despite being eligible to return. But Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli doesn’t seem to think Cruz, who has been sidelined with a left wrist strain, will be out much longer. “As I sit here right now I’m not prepared to make any definitive statements,” Baldelli said. “I would say today was a good day.” In the hours leading up to Friday night’s game with the Chicago White Sox at Target Field, Cruz could be seen bopping around the clubhouse, and he even took some swings pregame.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Let’s just say Minnesota Lynx forward Karima Christmas-Kelly stayed extremely busy this offseason. Yes, she worked tirelessly to recover from season-ending surgery on her right knee. Even better, she graduated from Harvard. Well, the Crossover Into Business program conducted by the Harvard Business School, actually, though that’s neither here nor there. “It’s still Harvard, right?” Christmas-Kelly said with a laugh.