The Minnesota Wild introduced their new star players, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, on Monday, five days after the team signed the two to long-term contracts.
After turning down other offers, Parise and Suter, the two hottest free agents in the NHL, agreed to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Wild.
Since the two joined the Wild last Wednesday, the team has sold 2,000 new season tickets, according to team owner Craig Leipold. Parise and Suter jerseys are flying off the shelves.
"Free agents of Zach and Ryan's caliber are often atracted to the major markets where there is more attention, brighter spotlights and frankly, more money," said Leipold at a Monday afternoon news conference. "These two chose Minnesota over those things, and in doing so they have transformed our franchise."
It's a homecoming of sorts for both players. Parise, a forward, is a Twin Cities native, and attended Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault. He played two years of college hockey at the University of North Dakota before turning pro in 2004. Parise's father, J.P., is a former Minnesota North Star.
Suter, a defenseman, grew up in Madison, Wis., and played one year for the Wisconsin Badgers before going pro. His wife grew up in Bloomington. His father, Bob Suter, was a member of the 1980 men's hockey team that won the Olympic gold medal.
The two players have faced each other growing up and on different NHL teams. They've played together nationally and internationally, including at the Olympics.
Parise said he and Suter decided it made sense for them, as longtime buddies, to settle in Minnesota.
"We both felt that this would be a great fit for both of us," said Parise. "We have played on winning teams before and teams that have done well, and hopefully we can do the same here."
Suter said it feels great to be in Minnesota, the "State of Hockey."
"It was a good feeling, walking downstairs and seeing the logos and going through and getting a little tour of the locker room," he said. "I think we both got really excited to start."
The two celebrity free agents were a big score for the Wild. The team finished 12th in the Western Conference last season. Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo said Suter and Parise will help make the Wild a championship team.
"The type of commitment that we've made with these two players, you don't do it unless you're bringing in two quality human beings and these guys, what they do on the ice, it speaks for itself," said Yeo. "But what they are going to add to our group from a leadership, from a character standpoint -- obviously these guys are going to play a huge role for us ... we are expecting them to be leaders of this team for a long time."
Coach Yeo and team officials say they're hoping the two players can lead the Wild to a Stanley Cup.
Parise and Suter say aside from winning, they'd also love to help attract more of the league's top players to Minnesota.