St. Paul, Minnesota -- In an unprecedented move, the Minnesota Wild will renounce their membership from the National Hockey League, effective immediately, to join Russia's KHL expansion effort in China. The timing of the decision is curious, as the Wild currently hold the Western Conference's final Wild Card playoff spot with just five games remaining in the regular season.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher made a brief statement this morning to a shocked group of assembled media. "For fifteen seasons, the Wild organization has brought first-class hockey to the state of Minnesota. Today, we take our product to the world!"
NHL executives speculate the organization was provided a significant financial incentive to move the team from it's St. Paul headquarters to the central city of Wuhan in the Hubei province. The new in-house marketing staff for the (delightfully alliterative) Wuhan Wild are currently adjusting the team logo to portray the indigenous muntjac, or barking deer, to cater to local tastes. Changes to the official color scheme are also being considered, as Chinese citizens don't commonly celebrate Christmas.
Wild owner Craig Leipold was unavailable to the media for comment, but it is widely rumored the telemarketing tycoon was also offered the position of Culture Minister in the Communist Party's State Council, usurping incumbent Luo Shugang. Minnesota was often referred to by the organization as "The State of Hockey." That title will now shift to the eastern Asian country of 1.38 Billion people, who will be legally obligated to bear the name following a ceremony next week.
Eleven-year veteran Mikko Koivu was beaming during the press event, clearly excited for the new opportunity. "Though we appreciate our time here in Minnesota, I think I speak for the entire team when I say we're happy to be moving on to a more, uh, temperate climate." The Finnish captain would go on to elaborate, "We're also very excited to finally be in a position to win significant hockey games."
Minnesota native Zach Parise was slightly less emphatic. "Yeah, it's going to be tough to leave my family behind, but I sure do love sesame chicken. I order that stuff in the hotel every time I get a chance! I know exotic food isn't for everybody, but you just have to try it."
The surprising defection has presented an interesting opportunity for the Colorado Avalanche. The team had previously fallen five points behind the Wild in the standings and were faced with missing the playoffs for a second year in a row.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, when asked for comment, was appreciative of the opportunity, though undeniably concerned by the events that allowed it. "Our young players have worked hard and done a lot of the right things. I'm excited for them to have a chance to play in the playoffs." Pressed further about the state of the NHL, and whether he thought more teams might leave, Roy was confident the league would move on. "I actually think it's a good thing. We've been talking about expansion for a number of years and now we can offer a team to a more deserving market."
Officials will soon begin rolling up Minnesota's single Northwest Division banner this week in preparation to move from the Xcel Energy Center next week. To show their appreciation, Wild players will hold a short thank-you event tomorrow for fans at the Mall of America food court, serving lutefisk and hot dish.
It is unclear at this time whether or not China's three-to-four-thousand written characters can describe what a Wild is.