Once his contract had been bought out Keith Ballard had choices. There were other teams interested in giving the former Gophers defenseman and Baudette Minn. native a chance to hit the reset button on his NHL career but none could offer what the Wild could: the comfort of coming home. So it wasn’t much of a choice at all. After a difficult three-season tenure in Vancouver ended last summer Ballard 30 brought his family back to his native state and joined a team filled with players he already knew. That has eased his adjustment during the first week of training camp allowing him to show the Wild how his skating skills and smart experienced play can enhance the defensive corps. His trials in Vancouver — where Ballard spent many nights watching from the press box as a healthy scratch — do not seem to have left any scars on his psyche. Three years of working with Minnesota-based sports psychologist Shaun Goodsell have helped Ballard maintain his equanimity preparing him for a fresh start. Being in such familiar territory has revitalized him too allowing him to find new joy in the game in the place where he first discovered it. “I had some ups and downs in Vancouver but that happens to a lot of people” said Ballard who skated with many Wild players during his summers in Minnesota. “If you play the game long enough you’re going to end up in situations where it’s not exactly what you hoped for. But I learned a lot there and I’ve got a lot of good memories and great friends. “With every new city and team there are adjustments. But I feel great. I’m very excited to be here and very excited for the next chapter.” He’s not the only one. Wild forward Zach Parise battled Ballard during their college days when Parise was a phenom at North Dakota and Ballard was an All-America for the Gophers. Parise said he much prefers having the Baudette native on the same side. “He’s such a good skater” Parise said. “He’s the kind of guy who’s tough to beat even if you do catch him a little bit out of position. He also brings some feistiness and we need some of that on the back end. I think he’ll help us a lot.” The Wild signed Ballard in July to a two-year deal worth $3 million. The team pounced just after Vancouver bought out the final two years of his contract ending a three-season run in which Ballard managed only three goals and 16 points. Last season he played in 36 of 48 games and never got into the playoff lineup as the Canucks were swept in the first round.
No place like home for Wild's Ballard
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Sep 21