SUNRISE, Fla. — Kirill Kaprizov was packing up his gear after Saturday’s All-Star Game and able to hit the bathe when any individual approached him.
“The man stated, ‘Sid asked if he can have your stick,’” Kaprizov recalled Monday. “I go, ‘Sid?’
“‘Wait, Sid Crosby?’”
The Wild’s third-year star laughed on the reminiscence. “He goes, ‘Yeah,’” he continued. “I don’t know why he’d want my stick. But I gave Sid my stick, and I asked if I can have one from him. Then he sent one over.”
A couple of minutes later, one other particular person approached Kaprizov.
“‘Connor asked if he can have your stick,’” Kaprizov recalled with a smile.
“I go, ‘McDavid?’” Kaprizov said, laughing again.
“The guy goes, ‘Yeah.’ So I gave him certainly one of my sticks, after which I bought one from McDavid.
“Big honor. Humbling.”
Kirill the Thrill pic.twitter.com/axw7B4nCxT
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) February 2, 2023
It was one of many highlights of an fascinating All-Star weekend for Kaprizov, who didn’t have a degree in both sport he performed because the Central Division misplaced to the Tkachuk brothers, Dylan Larkin and the remainder of the Atlantic Division within the remaining after beating the Pacific within the semifinal. He additionally by accident handed the puck as soon as to Detroit’s Larkin on the opposite crew. He stated he bought confused as a result of the Central performed in black jerseys within the first sport and he forgot he was carrying the lighter jersey within the second.
“It’s hard when you don’t play for two hours,” Kaprizov laughed.
The video games Saturday got here after the abilities occasions Friday, when Kaprizov grew to become a narrative for not participating in any competitors. That adopted two days of horse-trading behind the scenes which are a window into how these expertise competitions actually come collectively.
According to sources within the league workplace, a couple of week earlier than All-Star Weekend, Wild normal supervisor Bill Guerin referred to as to inform the officers Kaprizov was coping with nagging higher physique soreness and ask if the Wild’s main scorer might be left off taking pictures occasions.
The league stated no downside and as an alternative assigned Kaprizov to the quickest skater competitors.
One downside: Kaprizov didn’t need to do it.
“The thing is that I’m not the fastest player,” Kaprizov stated Saturday.
He requested to be eliminated, however the request both wasn’t acquired or was declined, as a result of when opponents were announced on Thursday, he was assigned to the occasion anyway.
Kaprizov once more instructed the league he didn’t need to do it. But round 3 o’clock Friday, the league confirmed to the Wild that Kaprizov can be within the competitors as a result of Kings ahead Kevin Fiala had additionally bowed out as a consequence of damage issues.
Fiala was squeamish concerning the quickest skater competitors as a result of in 2017 he broke his left femur crashing into the top boards in the course of the playoffs.
However, in accordance with sources, on the bus journey to the world, the previous Wild teammates Kaprizov and Fiala talked and determined they’d each participate within the occasion. By that time although, the league solely had room for 5 spots. So about three minutes earlier than the occasion, Kaprizov was instructed he didn’t have to participate within the occasion and Fiala would.
On Monday, Guerin confirmed what sources instructed The Athletic: “Kirill was willing to do it at the very end and was told they didn’t have room. Trust me, he didn’t want to not participate. All these guys have (injury) concerns.”
Kaprizov additionally stated he was able to go “but people came and said, ‘You’re not going to go,’ and that’s it.”
Kaprizov stated he was prepared to compromise and do one thing else, however the league had every occasion assigned to different gamers. He took half within the “tendy tandem” occasion like most different non-goalies. He stated it made for “a very long” night time for him: “We were on the bus at 3 and didn’t get back to the hotel until 11.”
Team Kirill: Let’s Go! 💪#mnwild x #NHLAllStarGame pic.twitter.com/VpT22nicZY
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) February 4, 2023
As for the sport, Kaprizov stated he had enjoyable and needed to be there, regardless that his physique language at instances left the impression he was coasting.
Kaprizov denied the dearth of effort, saying it’s an honor. In his eight skilled seasons, he has taken half in seven All-Star Games (5 within the KHL). The solely season he didn’t play in a single was his abbreviated NHL rookie 12 months as a result of there wasn’t one.
In truth, Kaprizov stated his second NHL All-Star Game in Florida was extra particular than his first in Las Vegas as a result of there have been so many Russian gamers. He bought to hold with Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov and Vladimir Tarasenko and two of his closest associates, the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin and Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin.
“Dinners at the hotel,” Kaprizov stated. “It was a rare opportunity and a good one.”
Our ⭐️ has arrived! #mnwild x #NHLAllStarWeekend pic.twitter.com/9C1gFYQWbE
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) February 3, 2023
Wild followers surmised Kaprizov could have been bummed he couldn’t be in Cabo with 17 of his Wild teammates, however Kaprizov additionally stated that wasn’t correct.
He and his girlfriend spent 4 days in South Florida earlier than All-Star weekend obligations kicked off, and he at all times supposed to spend time earlier than the weekend with Shesterkin and Sorokin, his previous CSKA Moscow teammate.
“We had a nice day together,” Kaprizov stated.
Guerin additionally stated he doesn’t really feel critics are “reading it right.”
“(Kaprizov) wanted to be there and was proud to represent the Wild and our fan base,” Guerin stated. “But look, you need rest, too. Most of these guys in the All-Star Game are the ones that lay it all on the line, and they need rest.”
On Monday, after the Wild’s pregame skate, Kaprizov joked that subsequent 12 months his comrade in arms, Mats Zuccarello, should participate within the All-Star Game with him. Zuccarello, within the subsequent stall, stated no method: “I want my vacation.”
Kaprizov stated certainly one of his favourite components of the weekend was attending to know Stars younger star Jason Robertson. They had been 1-2 within the Calder Trophy race two years in the past, although Kaprizov bought 99 of 100 first-place votes. “It wasn’t much of a race,” Robertson stated. The pair had been linemates within the All-Star Game and sat subsequent to one another within the locker room.
— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) February 4, 2023
The spotlight of the weekend for Kaprizov was attending to babysit Ovechkin’s 4-year-old, Sergei. Asked what he talked to Sergei about, Kaprizov stated, “He asked one question: When is my turn for the penalty shot?”
Kaprizov beloved the child’s transfer to beat Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo:
Elite line. #NHLAllStar pic.twitter.com/rHSKHtJPQH
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) February 4, 2023
Kaprizov, after scoring a franchise-record 47 objectives and 108 factors final season, leads the Wild with 27 objectives and 59 factors in 48 video games this season. He has two objectives and 5 assists up to now 5 video games and hasn’t been enthralled by his sport of late.
That’s why he stated the break got here at time.
“The season, (I’ve) had ups and downs,” Kaprizov stated. “(I’m) not as stable as last year, so it was good to catch a breath and focus on the rest of the season and playoffs. It was a good break for (me) personally.”
(Top photograph of: Eliot J. Schechter / NHLI through Getty Images)