Updated October 2018.
The North Stars departed Minnesota in 1993, leaving “The State of Hockey” without a professional team. After campaigns to acquire a current or new franchise, St. Paul was awarded an NHL expansion team in June 1997. The Wild, named as a tribute to the state’s wildlife, began play in the 2000-01 season, along with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Marian Gaborik was the team’s first draft choice, No. 3 overall, in 2000. Even though he left Minnesota after the 2008-09 season, Gaborik is currently the franchise’s leader in goals (219).
The Wild did not qualify for the playoffs in their first two seasons. They did, however, turn some heads in their third season.
Playing under Lemaire’s defensive system, the sixth-seeded Wild rallied to beat the third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the quarterfinals after facing a 3-1 series deficit. They repeated their comeback success in the semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks, becoming the first NHL team to ever win two seven-game series after facing elimination in Game 5.
The success could not be repeated in the Western Final though, as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim swept in four games.
The summer of 2012 brought change, as the Wild made a historic splash in free-agency. The team signed superstars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year contracts, strengthening a young Wild roster. Minnesota returned to the playoffs in the 2012-13 season, facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Injuries mounted and the Wild lost in five games.
Since 2013, the Wild have played their rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, three times in the postseason, losing each matchup. In 2016 and 2017, the Wild faced two other division foes, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, and lost in the first round both years. Winnipeg handed Minnesota their first round exit last season, but Minnesota is looking to the future as a revitalized Erik Staal leads a group of young stars, including Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, into the new season with vigor, poise and determination to take the next step.
Feature photo courtesy joe noyes | Flickr
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