A look back: The Minnesota North Stars, the story back then and its legacy today
Written by Derek Felska | 19 July 2011
This summer, we witnessed a team from Atlanta re-locate to a former NHL market in Winnipeg to become the Jets 2.0. For Atlanta, it was the 2nd time in 40 years that they lost an NHL franchise and rather likely means it will never be home to an NHL team ever again. For Winnipeg, it was a reprieve, a second chance at hosting an NHL club and a do-over where it can show the hockey world that the league never should've left Manitoba. In someways its a lot like the Wild's story, as Slap Shot goaltender Denis Lemieux would've stated "we felt shame" when the North Stars departed Minnesota in 1993 for Dallas, Texas. Bringing NHL hockey back to Minnesota became a mission for some people; and even a 'trophy' that was featured in political ads. We tried to snag other clubs that were apart of the relocation craze of the mid-1990's; attempting to bring the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets to no avail. It wasn't until the league granted Minnesota an expansion team in 1997 did we finally realize the league was coming back.
When I look back on it, its tough to believe that it was 18 years ago when the North Stars left the State of Hockey. I was 14 at the time, but it still seems surreal to me to this day. Today, I live in South Central Wisconsin not too far from the tourist mecca that is Wisconsin Dells and people who know that I'm a hockey fan will ask me if the team is still called the North Stars. As a former North Stars fan and current Wild fan I cringe and calmly explain that they're the Wild and they've been around for 10 seasons. That normally draws a shrug of the shoulders and a "oh, really, the Wild huh? Do they play in Minneapolis?" Another near cringe on my part, and I tell them they play in St. Paul. "Oh, St. Paul?!?! Hmm, whatever happened to the North Stars anyways?" I normally (sigh) and give them a fairly condensed version of why the team left for Dallas and how we waited 7 long years for the NHL to return to Minnesota. Yet, it tells me two things. To those outside the State of Hockey; and for a great many of those fans who were barely old enough to remember the North Stars this even seems to be a mystery. Also, for anyone who lived outside of Minnesota there wasn't a lot (if anything) reported about the sad tale other than when the team left for Texas. I began to think about how now there are kids who are 10 years old that really are unfamiliar with the tragedy on September 11th, because for them it either happened as they were an infant. For 'older' fans we remember this without too much difficulty and these youngsters can quickly be brought up to speed via a few Internet searches. Yet how many places can you find out why the North Stars really left? A quick search via Google only finds 3 places that explain the story; and 2 of those are on message boards.
It is a story that deserves to be told. It is a story that needs the correct context as well as a fan's perspective so those that hear about what happened can read what those people felt that were around when this departure took place. So what I am going to attempt to do is to stick to the facts, using a variety of different sources as well as fan recollections to really tell the whole story. Will some argue my bias; perhaps, but I never said this story was going to be 100% objective. I'll do my best to keep it that way but I am sure someone could find bias to my recollection of what took place. To use a line from the Declaration of Independence (which wasn't exactly written without bias either), "let these facts be submitted to a candid world." (click on the link for the rest of the article)
Perhaps some of you don't know the whole story; or perhaps you were too young to know what all led up to the North Stars leaving Minnesota. I was surprised to find that this subject did not really have all that great of a summary. So hopefully this answers the questions and gives you an idea of how it made fans feel when it happened. You have to wonder if Atlanta is feeling this way right now?!?! Enjoy!