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Updated: June 17th, 2011 11:16am
Wild make it official, name Mike Yeo third head coach in team history

Wild make it official, name Mike Yeo third head coach in team history

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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It's official: the Minnesota Wild's new coach is Mike Yeo.

The team announced the hire with an online statement and a media conference on Friday morning, a day after news broke of the surprise decision.

"Mike possesses a great passion for coaching and is a strong communicator," general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a statement posted on the team's Web site. "He has been a winner at every level throughout his extensive coaching career."

Yeo, 37, widely was considered a darkhorse candidate in part because he was similar in age and experience to Todd Richards, who was fired in April after two seasons and a 77-71-16 record.

But he reportedly was so impressive in a second interview earlier this week the Wild held off on offering the job to former Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. Two other men with NHL head-coaching experience, Ken Hitchcock and Michael Thierren, also interviewed for the job.

Instead, Fletcher once again went with a first-time NHL coach after waiting out the Aeros' playoff run to give Yeo his shot at the job.

"I'll be honest, I did believe in myself and I don't think you really get anywhere without having that vision and doing everything you can to make it happen," Yeo said in a statement.

"Everything aside, I am well aware that I'm pretty fortunate to be in this position at this age and I'm well aware that along the way I've had a lot of help. From the teams I've had to coach, to the people I've had a chance to work with, all have been huge contributing factors to getting me to this point."

Yeo played professionally for 10 seasons, including five with the Aeros when they were in the International Hockey League. He never got higher than the AHL, seeing action in 19 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before suffering a career-ending injury in 1999-2000.

The next season, Yeo began a six-year run as an assistant with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, then was hired as an assistant by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006 and won a Stanley Cup championship in 2009.

Yeo replaced Kevin Constantine as head coach of the Houston Aeros on June 16, 2010 -- one year to the day before the Wild reportedly finalized the deal -- and led them to a Western Conference championship in his first season.

"He's a great coach," defenseman Nate Prosser said in a statement. "He knows so much about the game, and the systems he brought in worked unbelievably."

In 11 seasons as an AHL and NHL coach, Yeo has been to five league finals. He also won a Turner Cup as a player with the Aeros and led a team of Wild prospects to an undefeated record at a tournament.

"In the coming days, I'm going to make sure that I get in touch with the guys and start planting the seed for what it is that we're looking to get accomplished here in this next season," Yeo said in the statement. "Then it's a matter of making sure you're ready to back your beliefs and stick with them and make sure, again, that you're well prepared going into it."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Nate Prosser, Todd Richards
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