- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Jordan Leopold had thought about returning home, if the opportunity arose to play for the Minnesota Wild.

He never could have imagined his daughter becoming famous simply for her desire to have him back.

Leopold joined the Wild for the morning skate in preparation for their game Tuesday night against Ottawa, with the 34-year-old slated to play on the third pair of defenseman and a bunch of family and friends bound to be in attendance.

“I’ve always dreamed of it and knew it was possible, but the fact that it becomes reality tonight is something special,” Leopold said.

This is what Jordyn Leopold, the oldest of four children in the family who will turn 11 next month, hoped for when she put her developing writing skills to use in a letter that asked the Wild coaches to pursue a trade with Columbus to bring her dad back home. Jamie Leopold, Jordan’s wife, found it on the counter one day in January and was so touched she cried.

The note described how much the kids and their mother had been missing dad, who was raised in the Twin Cities area and during his standout career at the University of Minnesota won an NCAA championship in 2002 at Xcel Energy Center where the Wild play their home games.

“Can you please, please, please ask the Jackets if you guys can get him?” Jordyn Leopold wrote.

The letter was never delivered, but within minutes after Jamie Leopold shared a photo of it with a local radio station the heartfelt, earnest note became a national story through social media as the deal between the Wild and Blue Jackets was finalized.

“My daughter doesn’t know what to think. I asked her if she wanted to come down here and talk to the media, and I don’t think she knew there would be this many cameras,” Leopold said. “But she’s very shy, and she’s at school today. There will be a time when she may speak. She may not. I don’t know.”

When he arrived at the airport Monday night after the trade, Leopold’s children met him with open arms.

“It was special. I try not to get emotional,” he said, his voice cracking, “but it is.”

Leopold actually suggested to his wife she take the photo of the letter down from her Facebook page when the NHL trade deadline approached. But he had no problem with the way it shed light on the loneliness families must cope with around the league with dads who spend so much time on the road, despite the glamour and wealth their profession can provide.

“It comes with the territory, and we signed up for this. I chose to have kids at a young age,” Leopold said. “My career is not going to last forever. There’s more important things than hockey, and the kids rank up there.”

The Wild have several Minnesota natives on the roster, including star Zach Parise, who made his return three years ago.

“At the point that he is in his career, just to get the chance to do it, it’s got to be pretty special for him,” Parise said.

This is Leopold’s eighth NHL team, but one that’s gone 15-3-2 in its last 20 games to surge forward in the Western Conference playoff race. That’s a bonus. The most important part for him is off the ice, at home.

“You want people to come here and get invested into the group and really want to play for something bigger than just money or a new contract,” coach Mike Yeo said. “For him, I know that absolutely 100 percent he’s playing for something bigger.”

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