Dear Minnesota Hockey Fans,
For a region that is probably the legitimate rightsholder to the moniker HockeyTown USA, sucess at the professional level has been in short supply. Sure there have been a couple of Cinderella runs to the Stanley Cup Final, the last being 22 years ago, and a couple of memorable playoff seris wins from the Wild, but from an outsider's perspective (I'm an Oilers and Jets fan), I've always viewed Minnesota fans as being a bit cheated - by on-ice performance as well as by dull, defense-oriented hockey.
Given the state's knowlege and passion for hockey being on par with those of us from Western Canada, it didn't seem fair to watch you re-build an organization from scratch while Mike Modano hoisted Stanley. It seemed absurd to have droves of Wild fans attend the draft, while fans of the Carolina Hurricanes yawned and applauded their team's success, too fat, too lazy, or too dispassionate to turn out for the parade.
I like Minnesota hockey. I've been playing in the annual Grand Forks tournament for the past half-dozen years and enjoyed paying hungover Saturday-morning games against Minnesota teams, then trading Mooseheads for PBR's and crushing them in the parking lot with you boys post-game. Good Times. But even while the City of Winnipeg was Jets-less, I couldn't bring myself to make the 7-hour drive down to Minneapolis to watch a couple of Wild games over a weekend. What would be the point? Who wants to watch a 2-1 shootout at the Target Centre? I mean, I think Dany Heatley is a bag of sh .. well nevermind.
But today has erased all my sympathy. It has turned into jealousy. The Wild are the big winners this offseason. And you should be proud. You've waited a long time.
Not only are the Wild instant locks for the playoffs, IMO, you might even take down the Canucks for the division. I would like that, as I very much dislike them and their fans.
The Wild boast a legit #1 goalie, #1C, studly defensive top-pairing, and plenty of scoring off the wings. Oh, and there are some excellent young prospects that will allow you to afford to compete for Stanley, as I imagine that Granlund and Brodin will be impact players while still on their entry-level contracts. The Wild will be a top-10 team for 8-10 years ... so if there are still season's tickets available, you might want to invest as they're about to become about as valuable as cigarettes in prison.
So today I applaud you, and tomorrow you will be my enemy again. But whatever happens I'll at least be glad that 2012's marquee free agents didn't land in New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, or a place like Tampa Bay where people won't give much of a passing care ... but to Minnesota where you actually took time away from the Coney Island hot dog eating contest to fist-pump and high-five your grandman.
Happy 4th of July.