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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
What did you do in the weeks following the Frozen Four?
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.
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?
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.
As a native Minnesotan, does it bother you that the Gopher
program is recruiting beyond the state's borders?
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.
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?
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
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?
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.