By Mick Hatten
ST. PAUL, Minn. — There are not many people who can say that they are making their NHL debut at age 37.
Granted, T.J. Jindra will not be playing for the Minnesota Wild, but he is looking to help the team behind the scenes. Jindra recently began his new job as video scouting coordinator for the Wild after spending last season as the coordinator of hockey and video operations for St. Cloud State University.
As exciting as it may sound to join an NHL operation, Jindra had a couple of conditions that he wanted to make sure were taken care of before he took the job.
“Something that’s been awesome has been how great the guys with the Minnesota Wild are,” he said. “Because of the timing, two things had to happen to take this job: (Huskies head coach) Brett (Larson) had to be able to hire somebody that he was excited and comfortable with to replace me and 2. I needed to be able to help the new person with the transition.
“I didn’t want me taking this position to negatively impact the things or the work I’d done for the coming year,” said Jindra, who got his details ironed out with general manager Bill Guerin and assistant general manager Tom Kurvers. “Tom and Bill were awesome about it and totally supportive to help make the transition smooth.”
The new GM
Jindra ended up being one of the first off-ice people hired by Guerin, who took over on Aug. 22. Jindra actually had a few anxious moments because he was interviewed by Paul Fenton, the Wild’s former general manager, for the job initially. Fenton was fired in late July.
But Jindra’s first contact throughout the process remained on staff throughout the process. Kurvers is a former Minnesota Duluth defenseman and he has known Larson, a former Bulldogs defenseman and assistant coach, for a number of years.
“When I found out they might be looking for a position like this, I thought of T.J. right away,” Larson said. “The more I got to know T.J., he was so good at his job here that I thought it would be a good opportunity for him.
“(Jindra’s) got a really hockey mind, attention to detail and he’s very, very organized and sharp. He was so strong in all of those things that I didn’t have to worry about anything. I could coach and recruit and T.J. was taking care of everything behind the scenes.”
It has been a bit of a whirlwind for Jindra, a Burnsville (Minn.) High School graduate, the last several years. He played forward for Notre Dame for four seasons (2003-07) and was the team’s captain each of his last two seasons.
He graduated from college, quit playing hockey and got a job outside of hockey in the Chicago area, but missed being around the game. Jindra has made several hockey stops along the way including: assistant coach at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School (Faribault, Minn., 2008-10), volunteer assistant coach at Notre Dame (Indiana, 2010-11), assistant coach at Alaska-Anchorage (2011-15), assistant coach at University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn., 2015-16) and assistant coach/assistant general manager for the Madison (Wis.) Capitols in the United States Hockey League (2016-17).
“I’ve had quite a bit of video experience at every place I’ve been,” Jindra said. “Going to St. Cloud was a really easy transition. Compared to what I had to do as an assistant coach at Alaska-Anchorage — where I had to do video and academics, recruiting, etc. — that’s where I gained the most experience, working at a program where you wear a lot of different hats.
“When I took this job at St. Cloud, I joked that it was the easiest job I ever had. That was not because of the work involved or that it wasn’t a ton of work, but I had to do everything I was doing in St. Cloud — and then some — at a different place.”
1st road trip
In his first few days at his new job with the Wild, Jindra was in Traverse City, Mich., helping the team at the NHL Prospect Tournament.
“I’ve never been at this level, so everything is interesting and exciting and I’m soaking everything up,” he said. “You always want to grow personally and professionally and this is an opportunity for that to happen and I’m excited for that.
“The cool thing about this job is I will be working with scouts, be around the front office quite a bit and I’ll be able to get the opportunity to be on the road and see how coaches do things at this level. I’ll get a taste of everything, which is really unique.”
Jindra will be a point of contact for the Wild’s scouts, tracking down video of players and editing video for them.
Larson said that a replacement for Jindra has been selected, but the university is finalizing paperwork on the hire and will not make a formal announcement until that time.