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Thursday, May 3, 2012

To Failure examining the Minnesota Sports Curse part 1


To Failure

One man’s attempt to document and make sense of the curse of Minnesota sports.

Welcome to Minnesota home of the 2011 WNBA champions your Minnesota Lynx. Please do not continue reading if you consider that a “real” championship. In order, to be considered a champion your sport must have more support then George Zimmerman in a Harlem neighborhood right now. I just wanted to get that out of the way and that seemed to be the easiest way to do it . The fact that the Lynx where given a parade makes me violently ill. Even if the amount of people who showed up to this parade, suspiciously resembled the amount of  homeless people in Minneapolis, it still makes me sick. This just goes to show how desperate and starved for a winner Minnesotans are. This is going to be a painful, agonizing, horrific, and hopefully cathartic look back at Minnesota sports and the curse/failure that permeates many of the teams , and followers of these teams. Before talking about the present,one must first look back at the history and the events that have led us to where we are. 

Not Counting the Minneapolis Lakers, our five major sports teams(Vikings, Wild, NorthStars,Timberwolves, and Twins) have won a combined two Championships. Both by the Minnesota Twins. The Vikings have lost all four Super Bowls that they have been in, and there last four NFC Championship games. The Vikes have lost some of the most heartbreaking games in NFL history. Our NHL teams have lost both Stanley Cup Finals they have been in. The Timberwolves, for seven consecutive years, were defeated in the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs. The Twins have lost 12 straight postseason games, including nine in a row to the Yankees.

I have been watching, reading, and digesting Minnesota sports pretty much since I can remember. I first started reading the sports section at about the age of five, so long ago that Charley Walters the “shooter” was actually good. This was way before he started mailing in his columns; with total BS, lies, and updates on his friends and the Oakdale Prom Center.

Most of my first memories are sports related: Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant, the Twins winning the World Series in 1987, getting lost at the huge parade that followed, watching my beloved North Stars on pay per view, loving the high school hockey tourney and religiously rooting for the Edina Hornets because they had the same colors as MY North Stars. Getting Dino Ciccarelli's autograph at Mangini’s . I can still tell you  where I was(my grandma’s) and my reaction(astonished, appalled) when  I was informed  the stars traded him and Don Beaupre for Mike Gartner. This was my first introduction to the bitter side of sports. I was 5 almost 6.
 History:
Let us start with the greatest year in Minnesota sports history April 1991-April 1992. I might as well get the good stuff out of the way first, and quite frankly this was an amazing time to be a 8/9 year old kid, who loved, and still does love sports. This was such a great year for Minnesota sports fans that we are still suffering for it 21 years later. I believe after this year the the failure of Minnesota sports began. We used up a decades worth of great times in a one year span, and the Sports Gods are still making us pay.
  
From April 1991-April 1992: The North Stars went on their run to the Stanley Cup Final, Minneapolis hosted the 1992 Super Bowl between the Redskins and Bills, the 1992 NCAA Final Four, and of course the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Braves.  I believe the Minnesota sports curse/failure has roots in this great year. It’s as if the Sport’s God’s have punished us for having so much success over this one year.  I have not forgotten the Vikings of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. I just believe that they have their own specific curse, of which I’m not sure where the root lies. More on them later.

Just imagine, the ecstasy and joy for a kid whose whole life and mood was/is highly tied to how his local sports teams are doing.

 1990/91 North Stars
Let us start this journey with the Minnesota North Stars. The Stars where always an exciting and fun team to watch they just were never very good during the late 80’s. I remember the debauchery and bloodbaths that marked the rivalry between the Minnesota North Stars[1] and Chicago Blackhawks in the late 80’s and early 90’s. This was a real rivalry between two teams that quite literally hated each other. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baHY18HpLwQ . Just search Stars Blackhawks brawls on Youtube to see or refresh your memory. Pregame brawls, numerous fights, and great hockey are the legacy of this rivalry.

The Stars took the Blackhawks to the brink in their opening round playoff series in 1990 losing in 7 games against the heavily favored ‘Hawks. This gave fans hope for the upcoming 1990/91 season. The 1990/1991 started slowly as usual for the Stars, but they were able to turn it around, as the calendar flipped to 1991. Despite finishing with a below 500 record, the Stars qualified for the playoffs. Once again they would be playing the their arch enemies the Chicago BlackHawks in the first round.

The pinnacle of the North Stars-Blackhawks rivalry was this 1991 playoff series between the two teams. The Blackhawks were far and away the best team in the NHL during the regular season. They were led by their Calder [2]winning goalie Ed Belfour,  Steve Larmer, and Jeremy Roenick etc. The North Stars where lucky to squeak in to the playoffs as the 4th seed out of the Norris Division.  The North Stars won the 1st game of this series in O.T. on a Brian Propp rebound goal. After stumbling in games 2 and 3, the Stars roared back winning games 4,5,6 in a row and chasing Belfour from the nets early twice during the series. From a points perspective this is still the biggest upset in NHL history.  The BlackHawks finished the season with 106 points, while the Stars finished with just 68.

After that the Star’s went on a magical run making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, before succumbing to Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Despite being massively sad about losing, and blaming the loss on myself for being at my grandparents cabin(I dragged my parents to a local bar to watch their satellite feed of game 6)instead of at home, the future looked bright for the franchise.

The Stars would lose in the first round of the playoffs to Detroit the following year, miss the playoffs the next and be gone forever after 1993. The Stars leaving was the single worst thing I had ever had to deal with up until that point. This event gave me a hatred for Norm Green that will live on forever, but did not ruin my love for hockey. Minnesota professional hockey teams have won a grand total of two playoff series in the 21 years since that magical run of 1991. The 1991 North Stars won 3 playoff series that year alone.

Part 2 tomorrow


[1] The fact is the Minnesota North Stars should be the name of our current NHL team. The Wild is quite possibly the worst name in team sports. Meanwhile the Dallas Stars keep our name and our history. If Cleveland can be the Browns and retain there history after there previous team left why can’t we? As always Gary Bettman you are amazing.
[2] Calder trophy goes to the NHL rookie of the year.

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