Imagine getting paid just to sit and watch hockey. Best job ever, right? Now, imagine it from the player’s perspective–oh, and did I forget to mention you’re watching it all from the press box?
That’s exactly what Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser has done for the majority of his NHL career thus far. But he hasn’t complained. He doesn’t come in with a bad attitude, in fact, his smile is contagious. In his time with the Wild, Prosser has consistently proven himself to be one of the team’s hardest workers, yet almost never receives any recognition for his efforts. He’s not the flashiest skater or a dazzling scorer. He’s just a good ol’ boy from Elk River, Minn. that just so happens to be lucky enough to play in the NHL as one of only four players from his hometown to do so. And, last night, he scored a goal that will long be remembered in the history of the State of Hockey.
It was halfway through overtime in a heated 2014 Hockey Day Minnesota 2-2 tie between the Dallas Stars (the old team) and the Wild (the new team). Minnesota’s second defensive pairing of Prosser and Marco Scandella manned the opposing blue line while young guns Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter manhandled their way back and forth deep in the offensive zone. Coyle bruised his way along behind the net, finding Niederreiter for a one timer at the top of the circle. Niederreiter’s shot rebounded off the Dallas netminder and Prosser pounced for his third career NHL goal and second consecutive game-winning goal.
I can’t read minds, but a flood of memories had to have instantly been racing through his mind. Days and nights spent out on frozen ponds or the legendary Handke Pit with the sole dream of scoring either an overtime game-winning goal or the Stanley Cup clincher. Sometimes it was probably both. There were sacrifices along the way. Blood, sweat and tears shed in the trials, joys and hardships of making the big time. But last night–last night, the dream truly became reality.
Prosser is never going to be the best defenseman, and I honestly don’t know how long his NHL career will last. But today, kids around Minnesota–Elk River, in particular–aren’t dreaming of being Zach Parise, T.J. Oshie or David Backes. They’re Nate Prosser. And if he never plays another game in his life, I can guarantee you he’ll have no regrets.
Somewhere in the State of Hockey, a kid is crashing the crease, saying, “Prosser’s in! He SCORES!! NATE PROSSER WINS IT IN OVERTIME ON HOCKEY DAY MINNESOTA!!”