It's okay to call Marian Gaborik hockey's next big star. Just don't say it to his coach.
Updated: March 19, 2003, 2:17 PM ETBy By Lindsay Berra, ESPN The Magazine
Theirs is a hateful kind of cold, the kind that actually hurts. Night after night, Wild fans venture out into the frigid Minnesota air to coax life from the frozen engines of their cars. Some cross the icy Mississippi River from Minneapolis, or drive in from the eastern 'burbs, or trudge through the streets of St. Paul. Every game night, 18,568 of themmany wearing Wild No.10 sweatersfill the Xcel Center to the brim. Each time he touches the puck, they stand, they ooooh, they aaaah. The din increases with his every stride and crescendos with the shot. If this were a movie, it would seem hokey. But this is Minnesota, and there's nothing contrived about the adoration for Marian Gaborik. The fans know hockey, and they know greatness when they see it. On this night, Gaborik does not fail to astound. He drives up the right wing, passes the puck to himself off the half-wall and cuts to the outside, spinning perfectly around Flyers D Chris Therien, who is left stupefied at the blue line. Even the adoring crowd misses the shot and the great save being made by goalie Robert Esche to keep it out of the Flyers' net. They are hypnotized by the same move that has Therien looking like an old man fumbling for loose change.