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Hayden Goethe, Published April 14 2013

Plenty of factors can be blamed for North Stars' departure

Fargo - Former Minnesota North Stars player Jim Archibald admits that it’s “mind-boggling” to think that a professional hockey team couldn’t survive in the “State of Hockey.”

But that’s what happened with Minnesota’s first

NHL franchise. After breaking into the league in 1967 as an expansion franchise, the North Stars left in 1993, moving to Dallas.

“A hockey team playing in the state of Minnesota couldn’t make a go and was moving south,” Archibald said. “Kind of more or less confusing to say the least.”

It’s all the more confusing when you consider how successful Minnesota’s current NHL franchise – the Wild – has been.

The Wild played in front of a sellout crowd every preseason, regular-season and playoff game from their first game in 2000 all the way until an exhibition game in 2010.

In each of their first 10 seasons according to hockeydb.com, the Wild ranked in the top 10 in the NHL in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center, which was built after the NHL granted an expansion franchise to St. Paul.

That’s a far cry from the final seasons of the North Stars, who finished last in attendance at the Met Center twice in their final four seasons.

In 1990-91, putting a team on the ice that made an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals, the North Stars averaged a league-worst 7,838 fans per game during the regular season. No other team drew fewer than 10,000 per game that season.

Norm Green bought the North Stars in 1990 and is still scorned by hockey fans for his decision to move the team. “Norm Green sucks” was a frequent chant heard at the Met Center in 1992-93, and T-shirts with that slogan can still be found at sports retail outlets in the Twin Cities.

“I never expected all this emotion, to be vilified the way I have been,” Green said in a 1993 interview with Sports Illustrated. “I suppose I should have.”

Former North Stars general manager, coach and player Lou Nanne said the North Stars’ inability to find an arena to call home was the biggest reason for the team’s departure.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owned the Met Center in Bloomington, was never able to work out an agreement on a lease with the North Stars after the team asked that improvements be made to the facility.

“You couldn’t get enough revenues in the building the way it was to exist,” Nanne said.

Complicating an agreement was the arrival of the Mall of America, which was built in 1992 next to the Met Center. The land that the Met Center occupied became increasingly valuable.

By the time the Met Center property was sold to owners of the Mall of America in 1995, an Associated Press story called it “one of the most valuable properties in the Midwest.” The 53-acre land was believed to be worth $25 million due to its proximity to the mall.

“(The North Stars) ended up leaving because essentially there was backroom lobbying going on to try and force us to move downtown,” Nanne said. “They wanted us to leave the Met Center, so they can sell the property and build the Mall of America. That’s why they left.”

Nanne said attempts were made to work out a lease agreement with the Target Center in Minneapolis, which is home to the NBA’s Timberwolves. But he added that a disagreement in advertising usage within the arena left both sides at a stalemate.

North Stars’ attendance soared to more than 13,000 per game in each of the team’s final two seasons in Minnesota. But in both seasons, that number ranked in the bottom third of the league.

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor

Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558