By Craig D. Schroepfer (@CDSWCCO)
April 13th, 1993. That was the last time the Minnesota North Stars played the Chicago Blackhawks in Minnesota. Chicago would win that game 3-2 as the North Stars left for Dallas the following season.
On Saturday, for the first time in 23 years, an old rivalry was renewed in the state of hockey, but with a little bit of a twist.
Alumni from the North Stars and Minnesota Wild roster joined together to take on Chicago Blackhawks alumni as the NHL Stadium Series came to TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
While longtime Blackhawk villain Al Secord wasn’t part of the alumni game, it only took 30 seconds for it to feel like a classic Chicago-Minnesota game, as Blackhawks forward Denis Savard got into a wrestling match with North Stars forward Dino Ciccarelli.
“It surprised me. Normally he doesn’t do that unless Al Secord is on his left wing, so he kind of caught me off guard,” Ciccarelli said. “I had to give (Brad) Maxwell and (Jack) Carlson a little crap because they didn’t come in to save me. Usually I started it and then got out of there so they could finish up.”
The North Stars/Wild Alumni would beat the Blackhawks Alumni 6-4, but today was more than just a game. It was about taking a trip down memory lane by playing outdoors, seeing old friends and giving North Star fans another chance to cheer on their team.
“There were many moments where the game paused and you could reflect on the day and how lucky you were to be around everyone,” Wild Assistant Coach Darby Hendrickson said. “It’s almost emotional in some ways to be around players you grew up watching.”
“This was long overdue, having an opportunity to play an outdoor game here,” Wes Walz said after the game. “This is an incredible experience for everybody, especially our generation who played in the alumni game. This is where we grew up playing hockey, on outdoor ponds. As generations move on, it’s going to get a little further away from that.”
The biggest ovation of the day may have been for Mike Modano, who was the last great North Star before the team moved to Dallas. For Modano, it felt special to play in the North Star jersey one more time.
“For me, it was the start of my career, so there is a lot of sentimental and emotional value to it,” Modano said. “It meant a lot to be back where it all started.”
When asked about the cheers he received, Modano couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like if the North Stars had never left Minnesota.
“It wasn’t very long that I was here. It was only four or five years,” Modano said. “I wished it would have worked out where the North Stars could have stayed here for a good long time. I would have loved to see what we could have done with 10, 12, 14 years under our belt. The fans are pretty passionate about the history of the North Stars organization. They all feel the same way we do, where we wished we would have stayed.”
While this was a day mostly of celebrating the past, at least one former North Star wanted to get a win over the Blackhawks in the worst way. That was Lou Nanne, who coached the Minnesota Alumni team.
“I told the players before the game this was going to be the last time we are going to play against the Blackhawks. We are not losing this game,” Nanne said. “It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be special but at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, if we have to sit some people we’re sitting people.”
It took 23 years, but Nanne got his wish as the North Stars won for the final time in the rivalry with Chicago and 38,000 fans were able to cheer on the players they grew up watching one more time.
Not a bad day for the state of hockey.