The Minnesota North Stars

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The Minnesota North Stars were an NHL ice hockey that existed between 1967 and 1993. The North Stars’ home games were played at the Met Center in Bloomington. The team registered relatively good performances, making it to the Stanley Cup twice and the playoffs in 17 out of their 26 years in the NHL.

How did the Minnesota North Stars Start up?

In 1965, the NHL announced plans to expand from six to twelve teams. The Twin Cities area of Minnesota, widely regarded as the capital of ice hockey were granted a franchise on February 9, 1966, alongside five other cities; Oakland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and St. Louis. A group of nine businessmen led by John Driscoll and Walter Bush, Jr. were responsible for the formation of the franchise. The name “North Stars”, borrowed from the State’s motto “L’Etoile d Nord” (French for “Star of the North”), was chosen for the new team. A new stadium, the Metropolis Sports Arena was built in 12 months at a cost of 7million dollars. Sections of the arena were completed while it was already in use.

The North stars in Competition

The team played their first game on October 11, 1967 away to the St. Louis Blues, another new team. The game ended in a 2-2 stalemate. Their first home game was a 3-1 win over the California Seals ten days later. The team ended their first season impressively making it to the Western Division finals, although this was overshadowed by the death of forward Bill Masterson two days after an accident during a match. They finished last during the 1968/69 season but rebounded to number three in 69/70. However they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues. After posting a record of 28-34-16 in 1970/71 they made it to the playoffs and advanced to the semifinals, where they were eliminated in a dramatic game 6 by Montreal Canadiens.

They would exit the playoffs at the first round in the next two seasons and then failed to make the playoffs a further consecutive three years. They returned to the first round of the playoffs in 1976/77 season but were eliminated by the Buffalo Sabres in two straight games. The next two seasons saw them finish bottom of the division as they merged with struggling franchise Cleveland Barons and shifted to the Adams Division. They reached the division semifinals in 1979/1980 season having posted a 36-28-16 record and beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. They were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers but made amends the next year, reaching their first Stanley Cup finals in 80/81 only to be beaten by the New York Islanders.

They moved to the Norris Division the next season and won their first division title but didn’t pass the first round of playoffs. They made the playoffs the next four seasons with one conference final appearance in between. They would fall at the first hurdle the next two years, before barely sneaking into the playoffs in 1989 and 1990. They advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1990/1991 but were beaten by the Pittsburg Penguins. They made a final playoffs appearance in 1992 and missed out during their penultimate season of 1992/1993.

Minnesota North Stars Most Notable Moments

The team had barely had a taste of the league when tragedy struck during their very first season. During a game against the California Seals on January 13, 1968, forward Bill Masterton fell awkwardly when skating towards the seals goal and hit the back of his head against the ice. He lost consciousness and died two days later due to what doctors called a “massive brain injury”. He is the only player in the history of the NHL to have died as a result of an injury sustained during a game.

The North Stars made it to the Stanley Cup Finals two times, 1981 and 1991 but lost both to the New York Islanders and Pittsburg Penguins respectively. Nevertheless, these two seasons represent the pinnacles of success for the team.

Most Notable Players

Neal Broten holds the record for most games (876), most assists (547) and most points (796) for the North Stars. He joined the team as a rookie from the University of Minnesota in 1981, and helped the team to a number of playoff appearances.

Brian Bellows joined the North Stars in 1982 as a rookie and played with them for 10 years playing a key role in their 1991 Stanley Cup appearance. He holds the record for most goals for the Minnesota North Stars and is second in the list of most appearances, points and assists behind Broten.

Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli joined Minnesota in the middle of the 1980/81 season from Oklahoma City Stars and hit the ground running by topping the team in scoring during his first full season. In the playoffs of 1980/81 season, he scored 21 points in 19 games helping the team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

Other notable players include Bobby Smith, Tim Young and Bill Goldsworthy who all posted impressive numbers in scoring and games played for Minnesota.

What Happened to the Minnesota North Stars?

During the late 1970s, quite a few NHL teams were experiencing financial trouble and Minnesota was no different especially given their deteriorating results. They merged with another struggling franchise, the Cleveland Barons to save the two teams. In 1990 with the team still struggling to attract fans, the NHL dissolved the merger with the Barons moving and the North Stars getting purchased by Norm Green.

The purchase initially looked like it would save the team but soon, it was clear to Green that the crumbling Met Center necessitated a move to a new location as funding for a new stadium was not forthcoming. As the 1992/1993 season drew to a close it was announced that the team would be relocated to Dallas. It was renamed the Dallas Stars, but Minnesota did not have to wait long for another NHL franchise as the Minnesota Wild came calling and began playing in the 2000/2001 season.