The North Stars called Minnesota home from 1967 until 1993 before moving to Dallas. The Wild arrived in 2000 and were in their 19th season of play (the 2004-05 season was lost to a lockout) before the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on the season.
That’s 44-plus seasons of hockey between the two teams and Lou Nanne has seen it all. Nanne played for the North Stars from 1967 until 1978 and then served as general manger until 1988 before finishing his time with the club as team president in 1991. Nanne, a former Gophers hockey standout, never has been far from the hockey scene in Minnesota and has kept a close eye on the Wild since they entered the NHL. In fact, he served as an analyst on several Wild games this season on Fox Sports North.
There is no one more qualified to select an all-time, 20-man roster of players who have either worn the North Stars or Wild jerseys. Nanne has picked his first through fourth lines along with defensive pairings and two goalies. Enjoy and feel free to leave your comments below.
(Statistics are those accumulated with North Stars or Wild and include games played, goals, assists and points.)
LW Marian Gaborik (502-219-218-437 in eight years from 2000-2009)
C Mike Modano (317-123-186-309 in four years from 1989-1993)
RW Dino Ciccarelli (602-332-319-651 in nine years from 1980-1989)
Comment: There is plenty of firepower on a top line on which Gaborik is playing his off wing. (Gaborik is listed as a right wing by Pro Hockey Reference but is a lefthanded shot.) Modano was taken first overall by Nanne in 1988 and became one of the NHL’s best players. Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, he found his greatest success after the franchise moved to Dallas. Modano was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Gaborik was the third-overall selection by the expansion Wild in 2000. His goal total remains atop the Wild all-time leaderboard and he is second in points. Gaborik and Modano are joined by Ciccarelli, whom Nanne signed as an undrafted free agent after the winger broke his leg playing junior hockey. Ciccarelli thrilled Met Center crowds with his goal-scoring during the North Stars run to the 1981 Stanley Cup Finals. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
LW Zach Parise (513-192-190-382 in eight years from 2012-present)
C Neal Broten (876-249-547-796 in 13 years from 1980-1993)
RW Brian Bellows (753-342-380-722 in 10 years from 1982-1992)
Comment: Parise and Bellows are paired on a line with the North Stars all-time leader in both assists and points. Bellows, whom Nanne took with the second-overall pick in 1982 after making a trade with Boston to make sure they wouldn’t select the winger, is the North Stars’ all-time leader in goals (10 more than Ciccarelli) and is second in points. Parise is No. 3 on the Wild in goals — trailing Gaborik and Mikko Koivu — and also third in points behind the same two players. It’s fitting that Parise is on a line with two North Stars, considering his father, J.P., was a longtime member of the franchise.
LW Steve Payne (613-228-238-466 in 10 years from 1978-1988)
C Bobby Smith (572-185-369-554 in nine years from 1978-1983, 1990-1993)
RW Bill Goldsworthy (670-267-239-506 in 10 years from 1967-1976)
Comment: The North Stars’ first star player, Goldsworthy, plays the wing on a line with Payne, known as Mr. April for his postseason success, and Smith, whom Nanne took first overall in his first draft as the North Stars GM in 1978. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Smith played a key role in the North Stars reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for the firs time in 1981. He had two stints with the franchise and Nanne has said that trading Smith to Montreal in October 1983 was the most difficult deal he had to make. (Smith wanted out because he wasn’t happy with the amount of ice time he was getting.) The North Stars reacquired Smith in 1990 and he was part of the team’s run to the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals. Smith is fourth on the North Stars in all-time points, one spot ahead of Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy, who celebrated goals with his trademark “Goldy Shuffle,” is fifth in points and third in goals behind Bellows and Ciccarelli. Payne is fifth in goals and seventh in points for the North Stars. Payne’s 35 goals in 71 playoff games is tops in franchise history.
LW J.P. Parise (588-154-242-396 in nine years from 1967-1975, 1978-79)
C Mikko Koivu (1,028-205-504-709- in 15 years from 2005-present)
RW Al MacAdam (459-138-202-340 in six years from 1978-84)
Comment: You want to shut down the top opposing line of another all-time team? These guys have the ability to do it and also give you some point production. Koivu, the Wild’s longtime captain, is the only player on this team to have played 1,000 or more games in a Minnesota uniform. MacAdam and Parise could score goals but were just as willing to go into the corners. MacAdam had a career-high 42 goals in 1978-80 while playing on a line with Smith and Payne. Parise had a career-best 27 goals and 75 points in 1972-73 with the North Stars.
.@NanneLou names his All-Time North Stars/Wild team!
Lou will break down his list on Vent Line at 11:00 AM!
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) April 6, 2020
Craig Hartsburg (570-98-315-413 in 10 years from 1979-89)
Ryan Suter (600-52-298-350 in eight years from 2012-present)
Comment: We start with two left-shot defensemen. Nanne has often talked about the talent that Hartsburg possessed and how unfortunate it was that his career was cut short by injuries. He missed 103 of a possible 160 games in his final two seasons because of hip problems before retiring. The smooth-skating Hartsburg is the all-time leader for North Stars defenseman in goals, assists, points, power-play goals (40) and game-winning goals (11). Suter doesn’t have the offensive ability that Hartsburg did but he’s a steady presence on the blue line and, when at his best, can make a very difficult job look effortless. Suter’s assist and point total lead all Wild defenseman.
Jonas Brodin (555-30-116-146 in eight years from 2012-present)
Brad Maxwell (472-82-217-299 in nine years from 1977-84, 1986-87)
Comment: Brodin is another guy who can make a very difficult job seem simple and at times it’s easy to overlook what a stabilizing presence he is on the blue line. Brodin is a tremendous skater and an incredibly sound defensive player who makes his partner that much better. Maxwell had two stints with the North Stars and possessed a feared slapshot that helped account for 31 power-plays goals. His point total is second-highest in North Stars history for a defenseman while Gordie Roberts is third.
Gordie Roberts (555-33-224-257 in eight years from 1980-88)
Jared Spurgeon (653-82-198-280 in 10 years from 2010-present)
Comment: Roberts came to the North Stars in a December 1980 trade that sent winger Mike Fidler to the Hartford Whalers. It was one of the best trades Nanne made as the North Stars GM. Roberts had a five season stretch in which he did not play in fewer than 76 games and he had eight goals and 53 points (his highest totals) with the North Stars in 1983-84. Spurgeon (5-foot-9, 167 pounds) hasn’t let his lack of size get in the way of making him one of the Wild’s top defensemen. Drafted by the Islanders in the sixth round in 2008 and then signed by the Wild as a free agent in 2010, Spurgeon’s goal total is the most ever for a Wild blue liner and he is second to Suter in assists and points. He also is the franchise leader among defensemen in power-play goals (29) and game-winning goals (15).
Gump Worsley (107 games, 39-37-24 with a 2.63 GAA, .919 saves percentage in five years from 1970-74)
Devan Dubnyk (328 games, 177-113-28 with a 2.41 GAA, .918 saves percentage in six years from 2015-present)
Comments: Nanne said going with Worsley as the topic pick was easy because if you had to win one game you wanted Gump in the net. This was true in the second-to-last game of the 1969-70 season when Worsley was outstanding in a 1-0 victory the North Stars had to have in Philadelphia. The Hall of Famer’s goals-against average with the North Stars also is the best among any regular goalie in franchise history and that came in a time when play was pretty wide open. Devan Dubnyk was the choice ahead of Niklas Backstrom and former North Star Gilles Meloche.