The first player signed to play for the Minnesota Wild is a familiar name in Minnesota hockey — St. Thomas’ Steve Aronson.
Aronson, a senior from Minnetonka, agreed to contract terms with the expansion NHL team Thursday and received an undisclosed signing bonus. The Wild opens play in the fall of 2000 although Aronson likely will play for the Wild’s minor-league team in the International League.
“Minnesota has a rich tradition of developing hockey players,” said Doug Risebrough, the Wild general manager and executive vice president. “We’re lucky to have talented young players like Steve Aronson right in our backyard.”
Aronson received a lot of attention from NHL teams in recent months. Before choosing the Wild, he had a generous signing offer from the NHL expansion Columbus team to play in their organization, but he chose to stay closer to home.
While some MIAC players have been drafted and played minor-league hockey, it’s believed that only one MIAC alumnus has actually played in the NHL — St. Mary’s grad Bob Paradise, who played several seasons with the Atlanta Flames and Washington Capitals.
Aronson was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year by the American Hockey Coaches Association — the first MIAC player to receive the elite award. He was also selected Division III National Player of the Year by U.S. College Hockey Online. Aronson was the lone Division III Player invited to play in the elite North American College Hockey Championships for Team USA against Team Canada on April 15 in Auburn Hills, Mich., and April 16 in Hamilton, Ontario.
"Steve is the finest player that I’ve ever coached, bar none," said UST Coach Terry Skrypek, whose 30-year coaching career includes 17 seasons at Hill-Murray High and 13 at St. Thomas. "I think he’s the best college hockey player in Division III, and I’d put him up against many Division I players. He’s very unselfish, and has worked hard to have a complete hockey game. I think he has the mental toughness to play professionally. He’s tough, he can take a hit, he sees the ice well, he can score goals, and he’s a high-character guy.”
A two-time MIAC Player of the Year and three-time first-team All-America, Aronson broke several records in his four seasons at UST, including Andre Beaulieu’s 35-year-old MIAC scoring record. Aronson surpassed Beaulieu by nine points, finishing with 244 career points (104 goals, 140 assists).Aronson’s career totals also rank him first on UST’s career list for goals, assists, and points.
While leading his team to a runner-up finish at the NCAA tournament and 27-4-2 overall record, Aronson led all Division III scorers this season, averaging 2.76 ppg. His 91 points (38 goals, 53 assists) broke UST’s single season mark of 83, set 20 years ago by Mark Hentges. He was a member of three Tommie teams that won MIAC hockey championships, and played in the NCAA playoffs twice.
Aronson is also a starter on the St. Thomas baseball team that was the NCAA Division III runner-up last season. He has a 3.38 GPA in Business and was named a GTE-Co-SIDA Academic All-American this year. A starting outfielder, Aronson played with the Tommies in the MIAC Baseball Playoffs this weekend. He’s batting .350 with 28 hits, eight doubles, 15 RBI and 18 runs in 26 games this season. He was 6-for-8 in Monday’s doubleheader at Concordia-Moorhead. The Tommies, 25-11, are ranked 17th nationally in Division III baseball.