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Hayden Goethe, Published April 14 2013

Star power: 20 years after final game in Minnesota, memories of North Stars haven't faded

Fargo - It was an atmosphere unlike anything that Lou Nanne has seen – before or since – in his long career in hockey.

Now 71 years old, Nanne remembers fondly the reception his Minnesota North Stars team received returning home to the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., for Game 3 of the 1981 Stanley Cup finals after losing the first two games in New York to the Islanders.

“The excitement, the people in the building, the atmosphere was electric,” said Nanne, who was general manager of the North Stars from 1978-88, in addition to being a former player and head coach. “The first game we came home to play, I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that in Minnesota in my life for any sport.”

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the National Hockey League team’s final game – a North Stars’ 5-3 loss at Detroit – before leaving Minnesota.

The franchise that began in the 1967-68 season was once led at various times by Gump Worsley, Neal Broten and Mike Modano.

It produced Stanley Cup finals runs in 1981 and 1991 – both losses.

It was the franchise that Nanne, as GM, once proposed a trade prior to the 1984 NHL draft in which he would ship all of the North Stars picks to Pittsburgh for the No. 1 overall selection. Why? So he could select future Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.

The Penguins turned Nanne down.

“When you get a franchise player,” Nanne said matter-of-factly, “you pay the price.”

And by the end of the 1992-93 season, the North Stars were gone, headed to Dallas to become the Stars.

“At first it was kind of a shock,” said Jim Archibald, who played for the North Stars from 1984-87 after starring for the University of North Dakota.

UND men’s hockey assistant coach Brad Berry played 63 games for the North Stars in 1992-93. He called the entire final season in Minnesota “emotional,” especially once it became official in March of 1993 that the team would move following the season.

“It was a great experience being a part of that organization,” Berry said. “I know moving to Dallas left a bitter taste in the mouths for a lot of people in the state of Minnesota.”

The North Stars started fast in the 1992-93 season, holding the NHL’s sixth-best record at the All-Star break. But Berry said success on the ice quickly deteriorated after the relocation announcement, with the team missing the playoffs.

“Once the announcement was made that we were moving, things went south,” Berry said. “I’m not using that as an excuse. … There’s a lot of things that go on outside the team that affect the team. There’s a little bit of correlation between that announcement and how things went with the team.”

Berry remained with the team when it moved to Dallas. Having grown up and played in Canada, the shift to a Texas fan base was a culture shock.

“We were an emerging market and an emerging sport,” Berry said. “In the Dallas Morning News every Saturday and Sunday were rules of the game because obviously they hadn’t been around it. But the fans got behind it. They embraced it.”

Archibald, now the boys hockey head coach at Brainerd High School, says even today when he sees the Stars playing in Dallas on TV, his thoughts still immediately shift to the team’s Minnesota lineage.

“You say Dallas Stars, and that’s the first thing that comes to my mind is the Minnesota North Stars,” Archibald said. “It’s kind of carried along with them.”

Berry said he still sees people wearing clothing with the North Stars logo.

“Even to this current day, you can buy merchandise with the North Stars logo on it,” Berry added. “That’s how embedded that organization was.”

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor

Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558