Pro-file: Jordan Leopold

It's been a whirlwind year for defenseman Jordan Leopold. First, the Golden Valley, Minn., native helped Minnesota win its first national championship since 1979 in front of a partisan crowd last April, one day after winning the Hobey Baker Award. Two weeks after the Frozen Four, Leopold was in Europe, part of the U.S. entry to the IIHF World Championship, one of two collegians on the roster.

Last summer, he signed a lucrative, multi-year contract with the Calgary Flames and made the parent club's roster right out of training camp. Leopold's rookie season has been a test of patience -- he's flashed moments of turning into the top-four defender Calgary brass envision him to be, but he also earned a trip to the minors just prior to the All-Star break due to his inconsistency.

Leopold was recalled from the American Hockey League shortly thereafter, He's played considerably better since his recall; for the season, he's tallied two goals and eight points in 40 games.

Inside College Hockey caught up with Leopold recently to ask him about his first year as a pro.

Inside College Hockey: You've been back to Minnesota a handful of times this season with the Flames. How's the media crush been?

Jordan Leopold: Well, it hasn't been as bad as the Frozen Four, I'll tell you that. That was a circus. The first time I came here was pretty busy. There's a lot of attention, a lot of things I volunteered to do. Since we've played a couple games, it has died down. That's nice because I don't really have family on any other road trip, so I can kind of hang out and do my thing. Once I came back in here the third time, it was pretty quiet. I enjoy coming in here. It's definitely fun, it's one of the best rinks in the league and it has one of the best crowds, too.

INCH: Straight from the "Questions to ask an NHL Rookie Handbook", what's the biggest difference you've noticed at this level as opposed to the college ranks?

JL: On the ice, the adjustments -- the guys are bigger, stronger, faster. All the things you hear. But, really, what I see is the instincts of the hockey players. That's something you can't teach...coaches try to teach, but you can't. I see somebody out there -- a high school player -- and I know what I would do in that situation but their brain doesn't work as fast. These guys are on top of it and they think before I even think sometimes, and they know what I'm going to do. It's kind of frustrating sometimes, but as we go along I think I'll pick up the pace.

INCH: What did you do in the weeks following the Frozen Four?

JL: The next two weeks were really fun. We went out and had a good time and partied it up. We had a good reason to, I guess. I took off overseas, actually, and played in the (IIHF) World Championships in Sweden, and that was pretty interesting, too. I got my first chance to play with the professional players -- big names like Derian Hatcher, for one. I spent about a month over there and came home, and everything had kind of died down by the time I got back. I think I missed a little bit, but it was a good opportunity to have over there and I learned a lot.

INCH: Looking back on the Frozen Four and the championship, can you put into words what it was like to help Minnesota win its first NCAA title in 24 years?

JL: Michigan and Minnesota have the most history in their programs, and I'm definitely honored to be part of the Minnesota program. What we accomplished was unbelievable. Now that I look back at it, I think it's pretty neat. They're on top, and they deserve to be on top. They're a big institution, they've got a great fan base and support throughout the community, so there's no reason they shouldn't excel.

INCH: As a native Minnesotan, does it bother you that the Gopher program is recruiting beyond the state's borders?

JL: We want the best players in Minnesota first, but what happens is there are so many colleges and universities in Minnesota or the neighboring states, so if you don't get a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota...they go to another university where they will give them a full scholarship. That's what ends up being the issue. We try to get the best players for the money we have for scholarships, and we've put together a good team with Coach Lucia. He's done a pretty good job since he came in, and turned things around pretty well. He's a good leader.

INCH: You went through a coaching change at Minnesota, and you've been through a coaching change this season in Calgary? Any difference between the two experiences?

JL: It's a little bit different up here; it's a business. And yeah, college hockey is a business, but you're dealing with amateurs. There are a lot more media issues and political issues that come into play at the professional level. Every day, you wonder what's going to happen, but you can't worry about it, so you just have to go out and play and do your best.

INCH: You mentioned the media coverage in Minneapolis-St. Paul following the Frozen Four. What's it like in Calgary, where every move is scrutinized by the media and the fans?

JL: Calgary is...I don't know if you'd call it worse or better, but there is a lot more coverage. The market in Minneapolis -- it's mostly football, then basketball and then you get the hockey. You open up the StarTribune or the Pioneer Press and you get a lot of football and basketball -- that's just the way it is. Baseball, too. I think hockey's last in the town. But some people understand the game and enjoy the game, so that's where Minnesota gets the good fan base. Up in Calgary, everyone is knowledgable about the game. People don't go to the game to get drunk. They go to the game to learn and observe. People are critical because they know the game, and we probably have 10 pages of paper clippings every day, which is kind of interesting.

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