Like all of the other posts that you have read so far, I am going to try and make you laugh and hopefully give you a little information that you can take home with you. I know that you are all asking yourselves, “Who the hell are the Minnesota Wild?” and “What the hell sport do they play?” The sad part here is that most of my readers are hockey fans, and the Minnesota Wild is a hockey team.
I guess it’s a good thing that people don’t know very much about the Minnesota Wild. The team itself has not been around very long, and really has not made too much noise. In a way it’s the team that players go to when they have been bad and Gary Bettman wants to punish them. If you have never been to Minnesota, here is the rundown: 9 months of the year it is snowing, and the other three months it is too far away from anywhere for people to visit. When I was still fencing, I thought about going to a tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota in order to qualify for the Summer National Championships. I want to emphasize that I thought about it. About 4 seconds after thinking about it, I decided to stay home. Six hours in a car, in the middle of a Minnesota winter, did NOT seem like a good time.
I should stop ripping on Minnesota, though. They are still a Midwest state, and the people that come from Minnesota are quite nice. They may say, “Minnie Soh Tah,” but we have accepted the Canadians, so why not accept the Minnesotans as well?
Anyway, back to some history…
The Wild were not the first NHL hockey team to call Minnesota home. I know, it’s crazy to think that someone would have taken hockey away from Minnesota when they have barely anything else going on in that state to begin with. Before the Wild, Minnesota was home to the North Stars, however, we don’t care about teams that moved to Texas just yet, and you will have to wait to find out about them!
Between 1993 and 2000, Minnesota was stuck watching The Twins, The Vikings, and The Timberwolves. While baseball, football, and basketball have their place in people’s hearts, Minnesota is the land of the endless winter (actually it is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but that’s not the point), and winter means hockey. So, in 1997, the NHL decided to bring hockey back to Minnesota. They felt very bad for taking away a professional team for the state’s official state sport, and the league thought this would make them happy again. Isn’t that nice?
Anyway, in the summer of 1997, a Name-The-Team contest was held. The entries came flooding in. The front office was inundated with little slips of paper with names on them. They got everything from the Minnesota Canadian Wannabes to the Minnesota Bet-You-Can’t-Find-Us-On-A-Maps. Luckily, there were actual people from Minnesota involved in the contest, and on November 20th, 1997, six finalist team names were announced. The proposed names were: Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Wild.
For those of you who don’t know a lot about Minnesota—ok so that is all of you—I figure you need an explanation to the significance of these proposed names. One of the most significant tall tales in Minnesota history was that of Paul Bunyan and his trusty Blue Ox, Babe. So Paul Bunyan was “a mythological lumberjack,” who wandered through Minnesota chopping down trees and giving the wood to the citizens of the state. It turns out that Giant Lumberjacks get lonely, and he needed a companion. Babe the big blue ox was that companion. While that story is truly important in Minnesota history, I think I can say with confidence that only Minnesotans would make the hero of a story a lumberjack.
The other proposed names are pretty straightforward. The Freeze refers to just how ridiculously cold it is in Minnesota most of the year. They wanted to tell their opponents that they were going to Freeze their balls off just coming to the rink. The Northern Lights refers to the Aurora Borealis, which can be seen in Minnesota at certain times of the year. The Voyageurs refers to the working-class employees of fur trading companies in the region during the 1700s. The fur trade was rampant all through that area, as it was unsettled wilderness. The White Bears is another allusion to how cold it is in Minnesota. One of those “It’s so cold that White [Polar] Bears live here!” Plus, the arena was located in White Bear Lake, Minnesota (go figure).
On January 22, 1998—my 10.5th birthday—the Minnesota organization announced that their hockey team would be named the Wild. They liked this name over the others because it honored Minnesota’s rugged, natural wilderness. What they didn’t tell their fans was that they were against naming their team after things that are cold, and after a passive mythical creature. If Babe had been a blue Manitcore, things might have been different, but it wasn’t and they aren’t.
In the 2000 NHL entry draft, the Wild drafted Marián Gáborík as their first ever draft pick. He also scored their first goal and is currently listed as the franchise’s scoring leader with 437 points. He also has the most goals and most assists. However, he only served as captain for one month. But then again, for the first 9 seasons, the captain of the Wild changed every month. They are the only team in the NHL to rotate their captains monthly. In 10 seasons, they have had 23 different players act as captain. It was not until 2009 that the team decided that their captain should be constant. In the summer of 2009, 4-time captain, Mikko Koivu, became the official captain of the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild may not have won a Stanley Cup, and they may have traded away players for other, more injury-prone players cough Gáborík for Havlát cough, but they are building quite a following in the fair state of Minnesota. Even if they are a bunch of would-be Canadian Lumber Jacks, they are still hockey fans. Keep an eye out for these guys (now that you know they exist), one day they might surprise us all.