01/20/2014 2:08 PM
By Tom Witosky iowawild.com
Follow Tom: @toskyAHLWild
PETERS FINDS A HOME CLOSE TO HOME
As Warren Peters helped three-year-old son, Connor, skate on the Wells Fargo Arena ice, Cheryl Tuck-Tallon remembered when her 31-year-old son was her grandson’s age.
“It’s been really amazing,” Tuck-Tallon said as she and Warren’s wife, Amber, watched an Iowa Wild practice last week. “It’s been such a long journey that you just can’t imagine that it would happen this way. But I know he wanted it more than anything since he was Connor’s age.”
Now, 28 years later, the Iowa Wild veteran is playing a key role on a team, as luck would have it, only two hours from Omaha where he and his family have a permanent home. It’s also a club that Peters wants to help establish in a community he believes is beginning to embrace it.
“I had some mixed emotions about it given what transpired before when I was playing in Omaha,” he said. “But I think it has been a pretty good mutual effort so far and the crowds have reflected that.”
PHOTO: Iowa forward Warren Peters skates with his son Connor after a Wild practice at Wells Fargo Arena.
Last month, Peters signed a one-year AHL standard contract with the Wild renewing a relationship that Peters hopes will extend his career for several years while living close to home. The family not only maintains their home in Omaha, near where his wife grew up on southwest Iowa farm, but also have an apartment in Des Moines.
“We go back and forth a lot, but we go back home when Warren goes on the road and then he comes home when he can,” said Amber Peters, who met Warren when he played for the AHL Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. “It is just good to be close to home again.”
The Wild contract brought Peters and his family back to the Midwest after a year on the roster of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins where he played in 73 of the 76 regular season games and 15 playoff games last season. But Peters split his time between Minnesota and Houston the previous two seasons.
“There is no doubt that having the team here in proximity to Omaha is a big plus for us,” Peters said. “But, had it been another organization, I am not sure the temptation would have been as great. My best years of my career came with the Wild organization.”
During those seasons, Peters learned what a good organization that Wild had become. It happened when Connor was born two months premature.
“Part of my feelings about the Wild comes from how good Mike Yeo and Jim Mill were to me and my family when Connor was born,” Peters said. Mill is the Iowa Wild general manager and Yeo, who was the head coach Houston, is now the Minnesota Wild head coach.
Peters said the club gave him a week off right after his son’s birth and all the time he needed as Connor spent close to two months in the hospital before going home.
“I can’t say thanks enough for the amount of time they gave me away from the game or the amount of support they gave me to deal with the situation with Connor and my wife,” he said.
Peters agreed to tryout with the Minnesota Wild in training camp knowing that his destination would be Iowa if he played well enough. That is just fine with him.
“I wasn’t trying to use the Iowa Wild as a stepping stone for something else,” Peters said. “I came here determined to make it work and to make an impact. In many ways, that is just me wanting to be part of the organization.”
Coach Kurt Kleinendorst said Peters delivers several advantages to the club including being a leader in the locker room.
“Petey is nothing but an honest, hard-working hockey player who expects everyone else around him to play the same way and will make sure they know that is expected,” Kleinendorst said.
Kleinendorst recently matched forward Zack Phillips with Peters on a line because “Zach has plenty of skill, but he needed to put his boots on every day and come to work.”
“When you play on a line with Petey, you’ve got no choice,” Kleinendorst said.
The immediate impact was increased productivity from Phillips as part of the Wild’s recent resurgence back into the hunt for a playoff spot.
Peters said he accepts the role of a locker room leader and a veteran who is to help in the development of younger players, but says it made him more conscious not to take it too seriously.
“I don’t mind working with younger guys and trying to help them learn the ropes,” he said. “But the one thing I don’t like is that if someone is intimidated or shy towards me because of my personality comes sometimes. I try to combat that with being lighthearted and joking around.”
Tuck-Tallon, Peters’ mother, said her son has always been serious about hockey. She remembers driving him to early morning and late night practices as he grew up in Saskatoon.
“Although he played other sports, it was his passion, his drive. He studied the game, it just consumed him from the time he started.” she said.
Asked how long she thought her son would continue to play, Tuck-Tallon was as direct as her son.
“Warren will continue to play as long as he is still loving it,” she said. ”He has a passion for hockey and as long as he has that passion he is going to be want to be involved. He will know when it is right time to stop.”