ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota is hardly a marquee place in major professional sports, a midsized market in the middle of the country best known on the coasts for the length and extremity of its winters.In the NHL, though, theres evidence mounting to the contrary. Thomas Vanek was the latest free agent to pick the Wild, two summers after Zach Parise and Ryan Suter jolted the league by coming as a package deal.Its a good city to live in and play in, so I dont see why this wouldnt be a destination of choice, said Jason Pominville, who was traded to the Wild last year and liked the surroundings enough to sign a new contract.After advancing to the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Wild have returned with a roster to match the hockey-maven populace and quality-of-life features in the Twin Cities area. Winning, of course, is the ultimate sell.Good players want to play with good players. Hopefully that trend is going to continue, Parise said.Vanek was the one, ironically, who first encouraged Pominville to embrace this place when he was traded by Buffalo. Vanek and Pominville were teammates with the Sabres for eight years and neighbours, too, and the Montreal-area native wasnt familiar with Minnesota.He loved Buffalo a lot, which I did too, Vanek said. But I told him, Youll like it there. Theres a lot of good fans. And after a week or so, he called me and said, You know what? Youre right. I do like it here a lot.Pominville signed a five-year, $28 million deal a few days before last season, and that has now kicked in. Vanek signed for three years and $19.5 million. Two seasons ago, Parise and Suter each signed 13-year, $98 million contracts.People recognize the talent that you have. So were getting better, general manager Chuck Fletcher said.Another factor in the Wilds favour has been the cultivation of prospects who have begun to contribute. With Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin the standouts, the Wild will likely send a 20-man lineup to the ice for the season opener Thursday against Colorado that includes 11 players age 24 or younger.The 14-year-old Wild dont have much on an original six franchise and the Twin Cities area is dwarfed by New York or Los Angeles in glamour and density, but Minnesota has produced more NHL players than any other state. Canada will always be king, but the land of frequently frozen lakes is a legitimate landing spot for many of this sports best.Vanek was raised in Austria but played at the University of Minnesota, winning an NCAA championship in 2003. Parise grew up in the Twin Cities area, the son of a former NHL star. Suters roots are across the border in Wisconsin, but his wife is from Bloomington, where the North Stars used to play before moving to Dallas and creating the void filled by the Wild.Stephon Marbury once infamously swore off a long-term NBA career with the Timberwolves because of Minnesotas cold weather, but for players in this league the climate during the season feels no different than western Canada or northern Europe. Good schools for the kids and postcard-quality summer days help, too, and the depth, history and passion of the fan base is a plus.With the Suter-Parise signings as the impetus, the season-ticket base for 2014-15 is the highest in owner Craig Leipolds nearly seven years running the team.Weve got the total package here and I think we need to continue to push that, Leipold said. We have a really great product to sell, and thats one reason we know that Thomas Vanek was interested. Anybody who has ever played in Minnesota wants to come back.Vanek has kept an off-season home in the Twin Cities area, so he had opportunity to settle his family. He wasnt going to pick the Wild, though, if they hadnt shown the same promise on the ice.I liked the team, I liked the depth, I liked the veteran players that we have, I like the young guys, Vanek said, and overall I think its a good mix. Chuck Klein Jersey
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. The Grizzlies erased most of a 25-point deficit before Durant, the leagues scoring champion, got hot. ANAHEIM, Calif. -- From the on-deck circle, Justin Smoak couldnt blame the Angels for walking Robinson Cano to load the bases in the third inning. When Smoak cleared those bases with a powerful double, he demonstrated why the new-look Seattle Mariners are a whole lot more than their new $240 million man. Brad Miller hit two homers, Erasmo Ramirez pitched seven innings of six-hit ball, and the Mariners beat Los Angeles 8-3 Tuesday night for their second win of the season. Abraham Almonte and Dustin Ackley also had RBI doubles as the Mariners followed up their 10-3 win on opening day with another surprising offensive barrage. They only needed a supporting role from Cano, who went 1 for 3 with two walks. "No doubt. Why wouldnt you?" Smoak said of the Angels strategy in pitching around Cano. "Theres a reason why you do it, but were all going to have to get big hits with guys on base this season." So far, its happening all the time: The Mariners scored 16 runs in their first 15 innings of the year while beating Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, their AL West rivals two best starters. Miller provided an unexpected power burst with a solo homer in the fifth and a two-run shot in the ninth, while Smoak has six RBIs in the Mariners first two games. "We just wanted to show them weve got some hitters," said Miller, who has four multihomer games -- but just 10 total homers -- in his career. "Weve got some depth. Starting on the road against two pretty good pitchers and a good lineup, getting two wins like that is a pretty great way to start a season." Ramirez (1-0) backed up his solid spring training with impressive work against the Angels star-studded lineup, striking out six without walking a batter. He retired 11 straight after squelching the Angels rally in the fourth inning. Wilson (0-1) laboured into the sixth inning for the Angels, who are off to their first 0-2 start since 2001. Raul Ibanez hit a two-run homer and Josh Hamilton had two hits for the Angels, who spent the entire spring determined to avoid yet another slow start, a prime reason for Los Angeles four-year post-season absence. "Theres a llot of things we need to do better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.dddddddddddd "Were a better team than showed up the last couple of games. Were getting some guys on base, and our situational hitting was great all spring. We just have to do a little bit better job of it." Los Angeles went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 1 for 13 in the young season. Wilson, who had a career-best 17 wins last season for the Angels, needed 95 pitches to get through the first five innings against Seattle. He gave up eight hits and had eight strikeouts, including the 1,000th of his career. "Ive got a lot of confidence in our offence," Wilson said. "Thats the mentality you have to have with the guys we have. If you dont score and you give up a run early, everybody seems to press a little bit. If youre not winning, youre not having a good time." Ibanez has struck out five times already this season, but he trimmed his former teams lead with his first homer for the Angels in the fourth. Ackley chased Wilson on his 114th pitch, drilling a double off the right-field wall in the sixth. Albert Pujols doubled in the eighth and scored on Canos two-out throwing error, but Joe Beimel relieved Tom Wilhelmsen and picked David Freese off first base, ending the inning before throwing a pitch. Freese got his first hit for the Angels in the second inning, but is off to a 1-for-8 start. Mike Trout went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch on his bobblehead night. Seattle closer Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth in the former Angels relievers first appearance for his new team. NOTES: Seattle OF Stefen Romero went 0 for 4 in his major league debut. ... Angels relievers Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett will throw a simulated game in Anaheim on Wednesday before deciding the next step in their recovery from injuries. ... In just his fifth season as a starting pitcher, Wilson fanned Kyle Seager for his 1,000th career strikeout. The former Texas reliever is the 41st active player to reach the milestone. ... Mariners DH Corey Hart got his first hit for his new club, an infield single in the sixth. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys
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