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Minnesota Wild Sign Former Golden Gopher Thomas Vanek

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The Wild will bring another Golden Gopher home. Take a look back at his Gopher exploits, and a brief, oh so brief, look forward.

Bruce Bennett

Multiple news outlets, including our sibling site hockeywilderness, are reporting that former Golden Gopher Thomas Vanek has signed a three year contract with the Minnesota Wild worth about $20 million.  This isn't a surprising move, unless you haven't paid any attention to Wild free agency or trade rumors for the past five years.  The reason this news is awesome enough to be included in our intrepid site, is the ONE OF US connection to Gopher hockey, even though he's Austrian.

In case you don't remember, Vanek was a Gopher forward from 2002 to 2004, appeared in 83 games, and had a scoring line of 57 goals and 56 assists.  In the spring of 2003, the Gophers won a National Championship in which Vanek scored the game winner in the third period against New Hampshire.  Vanek was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year that year as well.  The Gophers won the WCHA Final Five both years Vanek played at the U.

So now that he's playing just down the I-94 from campus, he'll join former Gophers Keith Ballard and Erik Haula on the Wild roster.  Mike Yeo will no doubt want Vanek to do what he's always done, and create offense.  Some will wonder if Vanek has anything left in the tank, and point to his less than stellar post season with the Montreal Canadiens.   Well, I reject their wonderment.

Obviously, Vanek wanted to be in Minnesota and play with the Wild.  He lives here.  He loves it here.  He's lived here since since he was 15 years old.  He did not want to play for the Islanders, so they traded him to Montreal out of spite.  So then he was an Austrian who's lived in the upper midwest his whole life, traded to a team in French-speaking Canada.  Despite his less than optimal position, he still scored six goals and assisted on nine others in 18 games.

If there's one thing I know about Minnesota sports fans, it's that we love ON ONE OF US, which is why we love Gophers playing for the Wild, even though two thirds of them are actually from Europe.  So let's start  the Stanley Cup predictions!

Oh, and if you're an NHL goaltender reading this, watch the glove side...