Fifteen Greatest Minnesota Wild Players: #14 Darby Hendrickson


Richfield’s own Darby Hendrickson was one of the original Minnesota Wild players, and fittingly scored two of the franchises most important goals.  As a result he remains a fan favorite even to this day.

Few players can call themselves one of the original members of a franchise, but number fourteen on our list of the fifteen greatest Minnesota Wild players can.  Darby Hendrickson was taken by the Wild in the 2000 expansion draft from the Vancouver Canucks and in a move that would see the native Minnesotan move to his fourth team in seven NHL seasons.   Still it didn’t matter to Darby as he was headed home to play in the state where he had already made a huge hockey mark.

Hendrickson was a standout high school player at Richfield High School, where he earned the prestigious Mr. Hockey Award as the best high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota in 1991.  That would give him all he needed to earn a spot playing college hockey for the University of Minnesota, and to be drafted by the Maple Leafs with the 73rd overall pick in the fourth round of the 1990 draft.  In two seasons with the Gophers Darby racked up 83 points (37 goals and 45 assists), and would leave in 1994 to join the St. John’s the Leafs AHL affiliate.

1994 would be a big year for Hendrickson.  He was a part of the US team at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, and then soon after that joined the Maple Leafs to make his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs appearing in two games.

Hendrickson would spend the first seven seasons of his career with Maple Leafs, Islanders, and Canucks.  He really didn’t set the league on fire during that time as his highest scoring season in that stretch came in the 1996-97 season where he only scored 11 goals.  Still the Wild came calling in 2000 and Hendrickson would be picked in the franchise’s expansion draft.

Hendrickson spent three-plus seasons with the Wild and set a career high 18 goals in that first year with the Wild in 2000-01.  He established himself as a scoring leader on the young team right from the get go.   But more importantly in that first year Darby did something that cemented him in the Wild record books.  On October 11, 2000 Hendrickson would score the first goal by a Wild player at Xcel Energy Center against the Philadelphia Flyers.

That goal was huge in the history of the Wild, but Hendrickson would make an even bigger tally in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  In the series deciding Game 7, Darby would score the game winner against the Canucks to cap the Wild’s second straight series comeback after being down three games to one.  The result was the Wild moved on to their one and only franchise Western Conference Finals.

Then in February of 2004 Hendrickson was traded to the Avalanche along with an 8th round draft pick for a 4th round draft pick.  He would spend only one season with the Avs, and then would spend three more bouncing around in European leagues.

Hendrickson’s impact on the Wild as a player most obviously is the two huge goals he scored.  Perhaps even more important was that Darby was from Minnesota, and was the most impactful Minnesotan to play on the roster arguably for years.  He also had a work ethic that impressed the fans and organization.

Next: Closing the Book on The John Torchetti Era

Now Hendrickson find himself after five seasons as an assistant coach for the Wild wondering if he’ll be back next season.  Even if he isn’t there is no bout that he’ll always be welcome by Wild fans everywhere for his time as a player.  The former Mr. Hockey not only helped make the Wild successful in the early years, he helped but the Minnesota in the Wild.