The Minnesota Wild is an American professional ice hockey team based in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Wild are the only one of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area's major professional sports league franchises to play in St. Paul; the other three play in Minneapolis.
The team was founded on June 25, 1997, but started playing in the 2000-01 NHL season. The Wild were the first NHL franchise in Minnesota since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993. They lost their first game, 3â"1, to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and recorded their first win against the Tampa Bay Lightning five games later. The Wild play at the Xcel Energy Center. In the 2002â"03 season, the team made its first Stanley Cup playoff appearance, making a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals. As of 2015, the Wild have averaged a .538 points percentage since entering the league.
Preparations of a new franchise
Following the departure of the Minnesota North Stars after the 1993 season, the state of Minnesota was without an NHL team for seven seasons. Mayor Norm Coleman began a campaign to either recruit the relocation of an existing franchise to St. Paul or the award of an expansion franchise to a Minnesota-based ownership group. These efforts came close to success in the mid-1990s when Minnesota interests purchased the original Winnipeg Jets with the intention of relocating the franchise to Minnesota, however, arena negotiations fell through and the Jets instead relocated to Phoenix, Arizona.
Shortly after the failed attempt to relocate the Jets, the NHL announced its intention to expand from 26 to 30 teams. Bob Naegele, Jr. became the lead investor for an application to the NHL for an expansion franchise and ultimately the first majority owner. On June 25, 1997, the NHL announced that Minnesota had been awarded an expansion franchise, to begin play in the 2000â"01 season. The six finalist team names for the new NHL franchise (Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Wild), were announced on November 20, 1997. Jac Sperling was named Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota team, Doug Risebrough was named General Manager, Tod Leiweke was named President, and Martha Fuller was named Chief Financial Officer.
The team was officially named the Wild, with the unveiling occurring at Aldrich Arena in the suburb of Maplewood on January 22, 1998. The new name was introduced to everyone with the song "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf playing over the arena's speaker system. The Minnesota Wild announced its first major sponsorship agreement with Mastercard from First USA. It was the earliest that First USA had ever signed an agreement in advance of a team beginning play (31 months). The State of Minnesota adopted legislation in April, 1998 to loan $65 million to the City of St. Paul to fund 50% of the estimated $130 million project costs for the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The legislation also provided that only $48 million of the loan needed to be repaid if the team met the requirements to have an agreement in place during the term of the lease with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. The City of St. Paul issued an additional $65 million in bonds, with roughly 90% of the debt service on the bonds and the repayment of the state loan coming from scheduled rent and payment in lieu of taxes from the Minnesota Wild. Deconstruction of the St. Paul Civic Center began soon thereafter and the Xcel Energy Center design was announced. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Xcel Energy Center was hosted in St. Paul.
The Minnesota Wild announced a 26-year partnership agreement with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (MASC). The Minnesota Wild-MASC partnership is the first partnership of its kind between a private professional sports team and a public amateur sports organization. Doug Risebrough was named executive vice president/general manager of Minnesota Wild and the Xcel Energy Center was completed and ready for use.
First five seasons
The Wild named Jacques Lemaire their first-ever head coach and the team picked Marian Gaborik third overall in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Gaborik would go on to score the first ever goal for the Wild in their franchise debut on October 6 at Anaheim. The Wild played their first ever home game on October 11 against the Philadelphia Flyers and skated to a 3â"3 tie. Minnesota native Darby Hendrickson scored the first-ever home goal for the Wild. The team was not very successful on the ice, but showed promise for future seasons. The most notable game of the year, however, was the first visit of the Dallas Stars, who had formerly played in Minnesota as the Minnesota North Stars. The Wild rode an emotional sellout crowd of over 18,000 to a 6â"0 shutout in Dallas' first regular season game in Minnesota since a neutral-site game in 1993. The season ended with Scott Pellerin as the leading scorer with 39 points while Wes Walz, Darby Hendrickson, and Gaborik paced the team with 18 goals each.
The Wild would get off to a strong start in the 2001â"02 season by getting at least one point in their first seven games. However, the Wild would finish in last place again with a record of 26â"35â"12â"6. Along the way, there were signs the Wild were improving, as second-year speedster Gaborik had a solid sophomore season with 30 goals, including an invite to the NHL YoungStars Game, and Andrew Brunette led the team in scoring with 69 points.
Gaborik spent much of the 2002â"03 season vying for the league scoring crown before slumping in the second half, and the Wild, in their first ever playoff appearance, made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being swept 4â"0 by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Previously, the Wild had beaten the favored and third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the first round in seven games, coming back from a 3â"1 series deficit and winning both Game Six and Seven in overtime. Brunette scored the series clinching goal, the last ever on Patrick Roy. In the Western Conference semifinals, the Wild beat the fourth-seeded Vancouver Canucks, again in seven games, and again after being down 3â"1 in a series. In the process, the Wild became the first team in playoff history to capture a seven-game series twice after facing elimination during Game 5.
When the 2003â"04 season started, the Wild were short-handed with both Pascal Dupuis and Gaborik holding out. After struggling in the first month, the Wild finally got their two young star left-wingers signed, but both struggled to get back into game shape as the Wild struggled through much of November. In a deep hole, the Wild could not climb back into the playoffs, despite finishing the season strong, with wins in five of their last six games as they finished last in the competitive Northwest Division with a record of 30â"29â"20â"3. Along the way, the Wild began to gear up for the future, trading away several of their older players who were a part of the franchise from the beginning, including Brad Bombardir and Jim Dowd.
The 2004â"05 season was canceled due to an NHL lockout. Former Wild player Sergei Zholtok died from a heart condition during a game in Europe. Zholtok died in the arms of Minnesotan and former Wild player Darby Hendrickson.
Minnesota finished in fifth and last place in the Northwest Division, eight points behind the fourth place Vancouver Canucks. Along the way, Gaborik set a new franchise record for goals in a season at 38, and Brian Rolston set a new highest point total by a Wild player in a season at 79. The goaltender controversy between Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson ended when Roloson was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a first round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
The Wild signed veteran free agents Kim Johnsson, Mark Parrish, Branko Radivojevic, and Keith Carney. On the day of the NHL Entry Draft, they traded the 17th overall pick and prospect Patrick O'Sullivan to the Los Angeles Kings for veteran Slovak Pavol Demitra. Niklas Backstrom was the starting goalie for the Wild after previous starter Manny Fernandez sprained his knee on January 20. Fernandez played for the first time since the sprain on March 6 and was removed after allowing three goals in two periods in the Wild's 3â"0 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Josh Harding was brought up from the Wild's AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, when Fernandez was hurt, and remained on Minnesota's roster for the rest of the season as the backup goalie. All-Star winger Marian Gaborik returned from a groin injury in January 2007 and made an immediate impact, bringing a new spark to a lacking offense. The Wild would make the playoffs in 2007 for the second time in team history, but were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in the opening round. Notably, the same Anaheim franchise eliminated the Wild in their first playoff year, in the Conference Finals, in 2003.
2008: First division championship
The Wild would break numerous franchise records during the 2007â"2008 season, including most goals and points (Marian Gaborik â" 42 goals and 83 points). Also, Jacques Lemaire recorded his 500th career coaching win as the Wild clinched their first ever Northwest Division title in a 3â"1 victory over the Calgary Flames on April 3, 2008. They again faced the Colorado Avalanche in the first round as sixth and third seed (as in the 2003 playoffs), but this time the roles were reversed, and the Wild held home-ice advantage. However, Minnesota came up short, being ousted in six games by the Avalanche.
During the off-season of 2008, the Wild re-acquired Andrew Brunette from the Avalanche, as well as trading for defenseman Marek Zidlicky. The Wild also signed free agents Antti Miettinen and Owen Nolan to multi-year deals. There seemed to be a stigma about Jacques Lemaire's defensive system that caused a number of top free agents to avoid the Wild.
2009: Departure of Gaborik and Jacques Lemaire
Despite winning the Northwest Division the previous season, the Wild fell to ninth place in the Western Conference in 2008â"09, missing the playoffs. Much of this was in part due to a lack of scoring and overall team offense, and the injuries to star forward Marian Gaborik, who played only 17 games. Jacques Lemaire, coach of the Wild since the team's inception in the 2000â"01 season, resigned at season's end. General Manager Doug Risebrough was later fired, leading to a nearly complete turnover in the Wild's coaching and hockey management staff.
In the 2009 off-season, Marian Gaborik signed with the New York Rangers during the summer as a free agent. Owner Craig Leipold hired former Pittsburgh Penguins Assistant General Manager Chuck Fletcher as general manager. Later that summer, Fletcher selected Todd Richards as head coach. Martin Havlat was signed via free agency after playing the previous 3 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks in order to lessen the blow of Gaborik's departure. During the first month of the 2009â"10 season, the team announced their first ever full-time captain, Mikko Koivu.
In 2009, owner Craig Leipold named Matt Majka as Chief Operating Officer of the team.
The 2009â"10 and the 2010â"11 seasons ended in disappointment for the Wild as they missed the playoffs both seasons. In the 2010 NHL Entry Draft the Wild held the 9th overall pick and used it to select Finnish forward Mikael Granlund. The Wild opened the 2010-11 season with two games at the Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland against the Carolina Hurricanes. Following the 2010â"11 season the team fired head coach Todd Richards due to the team failing to reach the playoffs in his two seasons as head coach with a 77â"71â"16 record. Mike Yeo, who coached the Wild's AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, to a Western Conference title in 2011, was named the new head coach.
During the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, in which the team hosted, the Wild held the 10th overall pick, which was used to select Jonas Brodin. The club also created a stir when they traded star defenseman Brent Burns and a 2012 second round pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and the 28th overall pick in the 2011 draft which they used to select Zack Phillips. Later in the offseason, the Wild traded Martin Havlat for Dany Heatley in another blockbuster trade with the Sharks. In the month of November, the team set a franchise record for most wins in one month with 11. Despite a hot start to the season, which saw them sitting atop the league standings in early December, multiple injuries to key players for extended periods essentially knocked the team out of playoff contention for the fourth consecutive year.
During the 2012 offseason, the team was able to sign top prospect Mikael Granlund to a three year, entry level contract. During the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the team selected Mathew Dumba with the seventh overall pick. In the same offseason, the Wild also signed unrestricted free-agent winger Zach Parise, a Twin Cities native, and defenceman Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, US$98 million contracts. However, the team's busy offseason was overshadowed by the 2012 NHL lockout, until it was resolved in January 2013.
Prior to the 2013 trade deadline, the Wild acquired Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, as well as draft picks. The team reached the post-season for the fourth time in franchise history after a 3â"1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on April 27, 2013. Finishing eighth place in the Western Conference, the Wild lost to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs in five games.
The relocation and rebranding of the Atlanta Thrashers as the "new" Winnipeg Jets in 2011 meant that Winnipeg was once again Minnesota's second closest geographical rival after Chicago, and led the league to reconsider its divisional alignment. Even before the NHL's return to Winnipeg, Wild management had lobbied repeatedly for a move out of the Northwest Division, where they were the only Central Time Zone team. Among the alignments considered was having the Jets replace the Avalanche in the Northwest, but Wild management strongly objected to this alignment as it would have left them as the only U.S. team in their division. Following protracted negotiations both amongst the owners and with the players' union, in 2013 the NHL collapsed its six divisions into four and dissolved the Northwest Division. As a result, the Wild moved into the Central Division along with the Jets and Avalanche; the Canadian teams from the Northwest moved back to the Pacific Division. The Wild now share their division with not only the Blackhawks but also the Dallas Stars, the Wild's predecessors in Minnesota, and the St. Louis Blues, another major rival of the North Stars during the Norris Division era. Thus, the 2013 Blackhawks-Wild playoff series was seen as the rebirth of the old Chicago-Minnesota rivalry in the NHL.
The 2013â"14 regular season for the Wild was the best the team had since the 2007â"08 season, good enough to claim the first Wild Card position. Jason Pominville became the Wild's third player in franchise history to reach the 30-goal mark, with Mikko Koivu surpassing Marian Gaborik in all-time points for the club. The Wild battled goaltender problems throughout the entire season. It began with Josh Harding leading the NHL in save percentage, and goals against average, before being placed on the IR for complications with his Multiple sclerosis (MS). Niklas Backstrom also suffered a season-ending injury with abdominal issues. The Wild started five different goalies during the year and dressed seven. At the trade deadline, General Manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a fourth-round pick, as well as Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Torrey Mitchell and two second-round picks in 2014 and 2016. In the playoffs, the team would face the Colorado Avalanche, who won the Central Division. The Wild won the series 4â"3 via an overtime goal in Game 7 by Nino Niederreiter. The team would then face the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, where they were eliminated in six games.
In the summer of 2014, the Wild signed forward Thomas Vanek as a free agent.
In 2015, the Wild clinched the first wild card spot in the West by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks. They then Defeated the Central Division champion St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs in 6 games. In the second round of the playoffs, the Wild were eliminated in 4-game series sweep by the Chicago Blackhawks. Following the loss, forward Matt Cooke stated, "Our expectations inside this room were a lot higher than (a) second round series.â
For their first seven years in the NHL, the Wild wore a uniform of either a green or white jersey with red and gold stripes and the primary logo on the front of the jersey. The shoulder patch was a circle with "Minnesota Wild" read in distinctive lettering from both words. The name and numbering on the green jersey would be gold with red outlining while on the white jersey it was red with gold outlining. In 2003â"04, the green jersey became the home jersey while the white one became the road jersey.
Current uniforms: 2007â"present
In the 2007â"08 season, when all jerseys were converted to the new Reebok Edge uniform system, the white jersey was retained and the home jersey replaced with a new one that has a small imprint of the team's primary logo inside a white circle, which is surrounded by the words "Minnesota Wild" in a larger ring against a green background. The rest of the jersey is predominantly red, with additional swatches of green on the sleeves. This jersey was originally unveiled as the Wild's alternate jersey in 2003. The away jersey uses a larger version of the primary logo without the concentric circles on a predominantly white jersey; in 2013, the lettering was updated to match the home and alternate sweaters, at the same time updating the sweater's look to a more traditional design. On August 30, 2009, the team unveiled another third/alternate jersey, which is predominantly green with wheat accents. It says "Minnesota Wild" in script writing across the chest.
The logo depicts both a forest landscape and the silhouette of a wild animal. The "eye" of the "Wild Animal" is the north star, in tribute to the departed Minnesota North Stars. The questions surrounding the identity of the animal depicted has sparked debate amongst logo enthusiasts, earning it recognition as one of the best logos in sports according to The Good Point.
In 2008, "Nordy" was introduced as the official mascot of the team.
The Minnesota Wild was originally owned by Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, a limited partnership formed by former majority owner Bob Naegele Jr. of Naegele Sports, LLC in 1997. On January 10, 2008, it was announced that the franchise was being sold to former Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold. The NHLâs Board of Governors officially approved Leipoldâs purchase of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE) on April 10, 2008. Leipold, a resident of Racine, Wisconsin, completed the sale of the Nashville Predators to a local ownership group on December 7, 2007, a team he owned since the expansion franchise was awarded to Nashville in 1997.
Leipold is the majority owner and principal investor in MSE, a regional sports and entertainment leader that includes the NHLâs Minnesota Wild, its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, the National Lacrosse Leagueâs Minnesota Swarm, Wildside Caterers, 317 on Rice Park and the facility management of Xcel Energy Center and the Saint Paul RiverCentre. He also serves as the teamâs Governor at NHL Board of Governorsâ meetings. After purchase of MSE, Mr. Leopold sold the Swarm to John Arlotta. Along with the Wild, the group has year-round management rights of the Xcel Energy Center, and currently has a management contract to manage the adjoining Saint Paul RiverCentre and Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The partnership also owns and operates 317 on Rice Park, which is the former historic Minnesota club.
The Minnesota Wild stay involved in the community through the philanthropic activities of the Minnesota Wild Foundation and its operations to support the game of hockey with events such as Hockey Day Minnesota. It has been celebrated every year since 2008.
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Wild. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Minnesota Wild seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Updated March 6, 2015.
99 (Wayne Gretzky) was retired by the NHL in February 2000 before the Wild retired the 1.
Note: The Wild rotated the captaincy for their first nine seasons on a monthly basis among several of its players each season, with some players serving multiple times under Jacques Lemaire. After Todd Richards became head coach for the start of the 2009â"10 season, Mikko Koivu, who was the last rotating captain and had had the captaincy three different times in the 2008â"09 season, became the franchise's first permanent captain on October 20, 2009.
Hall of Famers: The Wild's former Head Coach Jacques Lemaire was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (in the players category) in 1985. On April 3, 2008, he became only the 11th coach in NHL history to have 500 wins.
First-round draft picks
Franchise scoring leaders
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Wild player
NHL awards and trophies
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
- Josh Harding: 2012â"13
Jack Adams Award
- Jacques Lemaire: 2002â"03
Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award
- Niklas Backstrom: 2006â"07
- Dwayne Roloson: 2003â"04
William M. Jennings Trophy
- Manny Fernandez and Niklas Backstrom: 2006â"07
NHL First All-Star Team
- Ryan Suter: 2012â"13
NHL All-Rookie Team
- Jonas Brodin: 2012â"13
Franchise individual records
- Most goals in a season: 42, Marian Gaborik, (2007â"08)
- Most assists in a season: 50, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, (2007â"08*)
- Most points in a season: 83, Marian Gaborik, (2007â"08)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: 201, Matt Johnson, (2002â"03)
- Most points in a season, defenseman: 46, Brent Burns, (2010â"11)
- Most points in a season, rookie: 36, Marian Gaborik, (2000â"01)
- Most goals in a game: 5, Marian Gaborik (Dec. 20, 2007 vs. New York Rangers)
- Most wins: 189, Niklas Backstrom (as of end of 2013â"14 season)
- Most wins in a season: 37, Niklas Backstrom; (2008â"09)
- Most shutouts in a season: 8, Niklas Backstrom, (2008â"09),
- Best +/- in a season: +22, Keith Carney, (2006â"07)
- Most time on ice per game in a season: 29:25, Ryan Suter, (2013â"14)
- Most consecutive starts for goalie: 38, Devan Dubnyk, (from Jan 15, 2015 - April 7, 2015)
Minor league affiliates
Minnesota currently has three minor-league affiliates, the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL), the Quad City Mallards of the Central Hockey League (ECHL) and the Alaska Aces of the (ECHL). Since 2001, the AHL affiliate of the Wild had been the Houston Aeros. However, on April 18, 2013, it was announced that the Aeros would be moving to Des Moines, Iowa, beginning with the 2013â"14 AHL season, where they play at Wells Fargo Arena and became known as the Iowa Wild. The team's first minor-league affiliate was the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL, who folded after the 2000-01 season.
Former minor league affiliates
- Orlando Solar Bears
- Bakersfield Condors
- Texas Wildcatters
- Minnesota North Stars
- Minnesota Wild Official Website
- The State of Hockey