If you had told me a month into the season the Twins would be flirting with .500, I’d take the under on that bet. I’d also probably call you either Nostradamus or a really bad liar. With a disappointing end to the Wild season, I turned my sports tuner to the Twins – it helps they’re in town playing the Rangers. I keep waiting for them to turn in their costumes and reveal the real Twins – it’s become a joke how each Minnesota sports team finds new and even more embarrassing ways to disappoint us fans. With full apologizes to the ladies of our WNBA Lynx, the men’s teams in the Twin Cities just haven’t put it all together since I was four. Thank you Kirby Puckett, Jack Morris, et. al. Let’s look a little further:
Yes Ash, the Vikings do hail mostly from Minnesota. The kings and queens of roller coaster seasons – high enthusiasm in the regular season, downswing in the playoffs. Despite losing four Super Bowls, the Vikings have one of the best winning records in NFL history. Overall, they’ve had 457 wins and 387 regular season losses(10 ties) from their first season in 1961 – ranking as tied for 7th best winning percentage in NFL history. Despite this seasonal success – making 28 playoffs over the 54 seasons since joining the league – the Vikings have yet to win a Super Bowl(1969,1973,1974,1976), and have lost the championship game even more often(1977,1987,1998,2000,2009), however we are the reigning Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy!
While Minnesota is a power house in producing NHL talent(among the top outside of Canada), the play of NHL teams would indicate otherwise. When the league decided to expand on the “Original Six”, Minnesota was gifted a new team to begin play in 1967-1968. Having been named after the states motto – “L’Etoile du Nord” French for “The Star Of The North” – the North Stars shared similar miserable luck. After scoring the first goal in franchise history, tragedy would strike budding star and former US National Team Center Bill Masterton(4 goals, 8 assists) 38 games into the first season. During a game in early January, Masterton was knocked unconscious by two California Seals players during a check near the boards. Masterton like the majority of the league at the time wasn’t wearing a helmet and knocked his head hard against the ice, and cause bleeding from his ears, nose, and mouth. He’d never regain consciousness, and would pass from his injuries days later. The NHL annually gives out the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey”. The North Stars would retire his number, a tradition carried in Dallas.
Fearing dwindling attendance, and the threat of the World Hockey Association, the NHL would merge the Cleveland Barons and the Minnesota North Stars for the 1978-1979 season with Cleveland’s George Gund III retaining ownership. Minnesota had much to celebrate in 1980 with most of the members of the Miracle on Ice team having been born in state, but moreso, the pros would reach the Stanley Cup Final for the 1980-1981 season before losing to the New York Islanders. Several close playoff runs and a heated rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks would continue throughout the 1980s leading to another Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 1990-1991 season losing to the Super Mario Lemieux led Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to that season Gund would sell the team to an ownership group led by Norm Green, with Gund assuming ownership of the NHL’s newly awarded San Jose Sharks. Shortly after gaining majority ownership, Norm Green began plans to move the team to Los Angeles however he was thwarted by the future Walt Disney ownership of the Mighty Ducks(Minnesota ties, eh…). In January of 1993, Norm decided on moving the team to Dallas ultimately blaming fans for not attending(during losing seasons), the failure to reach a deal on a new arena(the team refusing to move into the Timberwolves new Target Arena), and pending sexual assault litigation. Just a few short seasons after the 1992-1993 off-season, the now named Stars(what is it with teams refusing to rebrand??) would hoist the Stanley Cup in the 1998-1999 season. Fuck Norm Green.
The NHL not wanting to lose key U.S. viewership promised a return of hockey to Minnesota, and on June 25th, 1997 they announced that hockey would return to the “State Of Hockey” with a new team beginning play in the 2000-2001 season. A surprising run of playoff success up to the Conference Finals in 2002-2003 against the Mighty Ducks surprised many, but the new Wild would get swept in four games. After the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, the Wild would twice lose in the Quarterfinals in 2006-2007/2007-2008 before a string of losing seasons. In the strike shortened 2012-2013 season, and the Wild’s final season in the ‘Northwest’ division, the Wild finished 26-19-3 to earn the rights to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs starting the current string of successful seasons(43-27-12, 46-28-8, 38-33-11, 49-25-8). Despite regular season success the Wild have yet to capitalize, only twice reaching the second round(both times losing to the Chicago Blackhawks). 2016-2017’s season that just ended saw the Wild set franchise win records(49), and most points(106) of any Minnesota NHL team. There’s at least hope here…
Besides the Twins titles in 1987 and 1991, the original Lakers are the only Twin Cities team to bring titles home of the four major men’s sports leagues doing so in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, and 1954! One BAA(Basketball Association of America) title, then four of the first five NBA titles(including the original NBA Finals!). Inspired perhaps by the successful moves in MLB bringing the Dodgers, and Giants west, the Twin Cities would lose the team in 1960(and I’m still not sure why they’re still called the Lakers…) to Los Angeles. Screw Bob Short.
The Timberwolves would begin play as an NBA team in 1989. A perpetual loser, the Timberwolves are the Browns of the NBA – we own the worst winning percentage of the 30 active teams. Despite the current talent, and Kevin Love, the Timberwolves have only made the playoffs during the eight seasons between 1996-1997 and 2003-2004. Seven quick exits guaranteed only moving beyond the first round in that final run(Kevin Garnett’s MVP season) when Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, Wally Szczerbiak, Sam Cassell, and the rest of the team would lose against who else, the Lakers. R.I.P. Flip.
Which brings us to the Twins, who began play in 1961 after having moved from Washington. While the Senators were defined by poor play against the Yankees(with a well known play/movie, and phrase – “First in war, first in peace, last in the American League” dedicated to the lowly Senators), the Twins would have to wait a few decades before this would hold true. Minnesota inherited a few legendary players in their prime(Harmon Killebrew, Earl Battey, Bob Allison), and would develop several others(Tony Oliva, Rod Carew) that would lead the charge for the majority of the 1960s and early 1970s. 1965 being the pinnacle(arguably 1969’s franchise best 102 wins in the conversation), with a World Series appearance against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The duo of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax would prove too much however, with the Twins losing in seven games. With the advent of divisional playoffs in 1969, the Twins would fail to take advantage in 1969 or 1970 – each season failing to best the eventual pennant winning Baltimore Orioles. Hampered by injuries, the decade would see long-time fan favorites Tony Oliva, and Harmon Killebrew retire, with Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven, and Jim Kaat being traded away in penny pinching efforts by owner Calvin Griffith.
After a change of venue to the Metrodome, and an ownership change in 1983, the Twins’ successful drafting in the early 1980s begin to lead the Twins back to their winning ways in the middle of the decade. First with Kent Hrbek, and continuing with Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Tim Laudner, Kirby Puckett, the Twins farm made the playoffs in 1987. Beating the Tigers 4 games to 1, the Twins would clinch their first AL pennant since 1965, and this time the team would finally bring home a championship to the Twin Cities. A first since the 1954 Lakers. They would repeat as winners of perhaps the best World Series ever played in 1991 against the Atlanta Braves. Injuries caused both Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett into early retirement, and the late 1990s were a dark period in Twins history. WIth the threat of contraction in 2002, the Twins surprised everyone by winning the division and beating the Moneyball Oakland A’s, before losing to the eventual World Series winning Anaheim Angels(of Los Angeles, California, United States, North America, Earth…). Several playoff appearances would follow, but the home town Twinkies could never beat the New York Yankees(2003/2004/2009/2010) nor the Oakland A’s(2006). Since 2010 the Twins have been miserable, but the future is bright in the Twin Cities. :).