It might be a sort of cosmic joke that those boys of summer, the Twins, are the most successful professional sports franchise in the coldest state of the continental US.
The Vikings, forerunners to the “wide right” Buffalo Bills of the 1990s, lost four Super Bowls over eight years from 1969 to 1977 and haven’t been back since. The Timberwolves have missed the playoffs the last eight years, and in one particularly wishy-washy stretch, lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs for seven consecutive seasons.
Going further back, the Lakers did win five championships in Minnesota from 1949 to 1954, while the North Stars managed to reach two Finals, but both eclipsed those achievements elsewhere. The memorable Minneapolis Lakers grew to mythic proportions in Hollywood, while Dallas hoisted a Stanley Cup in 1999, both teams keeping their names. Los Angeles is certainly not a Land of 10,000 Lakes—and in that way, those organizations stole a greater piece of Minnesota from the North Star State.
Replacing the North Stars, the Wild have thrived at the box office, but little else. Laying a foundation of being overachievers during the franchise’s inaugural campaign, an undermanned squad that devoted itself to Jacques Lemaire’s defense-first system wore down enough opponents to make the Conference Finals just two years later.
Since then, that reputation has crumbled with season after season of missed expectations. Sometimes undone by short-sighted thrift, like letting go Cliff Ronning and Willie Mitchell, and sometimes by misplaced extravagance, such as investing in Martin Havlat and Dany Heatley, Minnesota has only two first-round bounces to show in the last eight years.
These are the generations of sports misery that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter must overcome as Minnesota attempts to raise not just “The State of Hockey,” but the entire state, with the unprecedented extravagance of matching $98 million dollar contracts.
Parise, the kid from Faribault who grew up a Twins fan, should be somewhat aware of the toxic mixture of ardent devotion and constant failure that Minnesota sports fans have grown accustomed to. Suter, whose wife is from Bloomington, better get ready: “Hockey-mad” can also mean really mad.
Parise and Suter ride in as heroes; will they ride out as such?