Hitting defines Nick Wolff’s game, and the 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound defenseman also embraces the fight game. The newest Bruins recruit, signed as a free agent Wednesday out of Minnesota-Duluth, is looking forward to the day when he can display those tools as a member of the Bruins blueline.
“Fighting’s part of the game, though it’s slowly fading away,” noted Wolff, chatting over the phone Thursday from his folks’ home in Eagan, Minn. “But at times you still need it.
"You know, little guys in college can run around out there and run their mouths with that little [face] cage on. So at times that had to be put to a halt.
"I think defending your teammates is huge in the NHL. So yeah, if they need me to step out there and fight, to protect a teammate, I’ll be happy to do so. I enjoyed it in juniors, and can’t wait to do it again.”
For a Boston fan base currently suffering acute pangs of hockey withdrawal, that’s the kind of talk that could keep their flames aglow until September’s training camp. Sadly, as the coronavirus scare continues, it might have to serve as their total sustenance.
Prior to UMD, Wolff played two-plus seasons with Des Moines of the USHL, noting that he fought 15-16 times across his 116 games there (total: 431 penalty minutes).
There was still no telling Thursday whether the suspended NHL season will resume, or whether the league will be able to stage its 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and crown a champ.
“Crazy, isn’t it?” said Wolff, who under normal circumstances could be targeting the Bruins’ development camp in June or July as his next step. “Who knows what’s going to happen next?”
Wolff, 23, signed a one-year deal Wednesday, only some 48 hours after being apprised that the NCAA had terminated all winter sports in light of the pandemic. An undrafted free agent, his age prohibited him from signing more than a one-year deal, per the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.
I think defending your teammates is huge in the NHL. So yeah, if they need me to step out there and fight, to protect a teammate, I’ll be happy to do so. I enjoyed it in juniors, and can’t wait to do it again.
UMD on Thursday was to begin its Division 1 playoffs against visiting Miami-Ohio in what the Bulldogs hoped would be their first step in defending their back-to-back NCAA Frozen Four titles. The RedHawks already were in Duluth, after their 13-hour bus ride up from Oxford, Ohio.
“We’d just practiced, getting ready to take them on,” said Wolff, who played in three NCAA title games in his years at UMD. “We were in the locker room, waiting to watch video with the coach, and he comes in and says, ‘Hey, the next two weeks are done and we don’t know from there. ‘ It just happened so quick.”
The RedHawks turned around and bused back to Ohio. The Bulldogs hung out on campus for the weekend, eager for a team meeting Monday to learn how they might proceed.
“That was in person, and then that got canceled on Monday morning,” said Wolff. “Then we had a voice conference call with everybody — the team, coaches, and AD — and it was done. Finished. I mean, it was fast.”
The season’s termination allowed Tom Lynn, Wolff’s agent at Veritas Hockey, to enter immediately into contract talks with the Bruins. Wolff had been an invitee to Boston’s development camps in the summers of 2018 and ’19, loved the experience, and already knew where he wanted to begin his NHL journey.
Wolff and Bruins general manager Don Sweeney came to quick agreement on a two-way deal for the league minimum $700,000 — with a guaranteed minimum of $162,500, signing bonus included. On the same day Boston captain Zdeno Chara turned 43, the deal was announced for a potential next-generation strongman on the Boston back line.
“No way!” said Wolff, apprised of the coincidence. “Well, that’s good news, right? He’s the role model for me.”