As best I can tell, I first used the #oneofus hashtag on Twitter (follow me at @russostrib, all the cool kids do) on Feb. 16, 2012, in reply to a Wild P.R. guy who tweeted that Dustin Byfuglien was the highest-scoring Minnesota-born player against the Wild.
I admit the hashtag was a playful jab at the provincials who used to email and tweet me incessantly with suggestions that the hometown Wild should fill its roster with Minnesotans.
“Now that we got Parise, what about trading for Big Buff?” “Any chance the Wild go after Okposo?” “Now that we got Ballard, what about Leopold and Martin?” “When can we start #BackesWatch?”
The hashtag has taken off since by fans who get the gist of my joke. It’s all in good fun, of course, because even though I’m only an adopted #oneofus guy born in New York and raised in South Florida, I’ve got the utmost respect for the great State of Hockey.
Minnesotans have the right to be proud of the players produced here and the hockey played here. I mean, what’s more fun than the state high school hockey tournament?
“We’re pretty lucky,” said the Wild’s Ryan Carter, who is #oneofus and a product of White Bear Lake Area Hockey Association. “The one thing I really take pride in is that we’re raised different than a lot of the other places that produce NHL players.
“We play for the youth program for our city, we play for the high school teams, then maybe we move onto junior and probably college. A lot of these kids from other states, they’re moving out at 15, 16 years old to play junior. I stayed home and played four years of high school hockey, then went to Mankato.
“That’s a rare thing for a professional hockey player. It’s pretty cool in Minnesota that you can play high school hockey and still develop well enough to be a player in this league."
There are Minnesotans scattered throughout the National Hockey League, so sticking with the #oneofus theme, here is my All-Minnesota NHL team.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (Bloomington): Relentless worker has more goals than any other active Minnesotan.
Anders Lee, N.Y. Islanders (Edina): Such an athlete. This guy was a finalist for Mr. Football and Mr. Hockey at Edina. Power forward on the rise who scored 25 goals as a rookie.
Matt Hendricks, Edmonton Oilers (Blaine): Besides being such a good citizen when it comes to his charity, he’s one of the hardest workers in the NHL.
Ryan Carter, Minnesota Wild (White Bear Lake): Former Stanley Cup champion and proud fourth-liner who campaigned for a spot and convinced me: “You can’t build a lunch all on cookies. You need bread, you need meat to win,” Carter said.
Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers (Blaine): All the tools to be a star and all the leadership ability to be a captain.
Derek Stepan, N.Y. Rangers (Hastings): Skilled, hard-working Hastings native who would probably be the Rangers’ captain if another tremendous #oneofus wasn’t.
Brock Nelson, N.Y. Islanders (Warroad): Former Warroad star who is big, smart, highly offensive and very versatile.
David Backes, St. Louis Blues (Blaine): The Blues’ hard-nosed, sometimes mean (only on the ice) captain hails from Blaine but starred at Spring Lake Park High School.
Kyle Okposo, N.Y. Islanders (St. Paul): When he’s on, he’s as electrifying a scorer as there is in the NHL. He’s the guy Isles coach Jack Capuano moves from line to line to spark others.
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (Plymouth): Now the Jets’ go-to scorer. He is big, skilled, has a great shot and is beloved in that Winnipeg locker room.
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals (Warroad): When you play high school hockey in Minesota, consider yourself adopted. The shootout master has one of the best shots in the NHL.
Matt Cullen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Moorhead): Not his natural position, but all teams need verteran leadership, and there's no better elder statesman than the 39-year-old "Cully." One of the best human beings I know.
Ryan McDonagh, N.Y. Rangers (St. Paul): Parise calls the Rangers’ captain and former Mr. Hockey the hardest defenseman to play in the game. That endorsement cinched “Mac” as our No. 1 D.
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes (South St. Paul): Through mid-December, the sharpshooter led all NHL blue-liners with 12 goals—all on the power play!
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets (Roseau): Versatile defenseman/winger is physically imposing and possesses an absolutely booming shot.
Paul Martin, San Jose Sharks (Elk River): Still one of the smoothest defensemen in the NHL at age 34. Parise demanded that Martin should be on the roster.
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche (Bloomington): Since being traded to the Avalanche, he has developed into a top defenseman and go-to guy for Patrick Roy.
Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals (Virginia): Found a home in Washington and just does everything well on a deep Capitals team.
Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars (Grand Rapids): Solid offensive defenseman and power-play specialist.
Nick Leddy, N.Y. Islanders (Eden Prairie): Smooth-skating puck-mover who got the last laugh after being discarded by the Wild in the worst trade of the Chuck Fletcher era. Stanley Cup winner in Chicago and huge contract on Long Island, I mean...Brooklyn.
Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks (South St. Paul): OK, goaltending is not Minnesota's strong suit at the NHL level, but thank goodness for Stalock, who is one heck of a puck-handling goalie.
There are, however, some very intriguing #oneofus goaltenders in the pipeline that we should keep our eyes on, like Stalock’s cousin, Adam Wilcox (South St. Paul), and Charlie Lindgren (Lakeville), Alex Lyon (Baudette), Michael Bitzer (Moorhead) and Zane McIntyre (Thief River Falls).
Michael Russo covers the Wild and National Hockey League for the Star Tribune. He co-hosts a podcast on malepatternpodcasts.com, can be heard weekly on KFAN and seen on Fox Sports North.