Ranking the 5 Most Beloved Figures in Minnesota's Pro Hockey History
This sport was here
Before we came
It will be here when we’re gone
The game’s in our blood
And our blood’s in the game
—"Minnesota Wild Anthem"
To do an all-encompassing slideshow on the most important figures in the history of hockey in Minnesota, you would have to do a presentation so large it would shut down the Bleacher Report servers.
Narrowing it down to five was awfully difficult, but after residing in the State of Hockey for over 20 years, I did my best to choose the top five most beloved figures in Minnesota’s professional hockey history.
Many of these guys are before my time, but I suspect many of the players we’re watching now will become part of this list in due time.
Many of the events referenced in the slideshow happened long before I was born, but I actually witnessed Darby Hendrickson score the first Wild goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
It was so long ago, the game ended in a tie.
Hendrickson is from Richfield and spent two years at the University of Minnesota before embarking on a career that began in 1993 and ended in 2007. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks before joining the Wild in their inaugural season.
He spent four seasons in Minnesota before finishing up his career with the Colorado Avalanche. He also spent the final three years overseas before retirement.
Currently an assistant coach with the Wild, the former Mr. Hockey Minnesota served as a broadcaster with Fox Sports North.
As a member of the Minnesota North Stars, a helmetless Bill Masterton was hit by two members of the old Oakland Seals on January 13, 1968 and died from brain trauma.
He is the only NHL player to die as a direct result of an injury sustained on the ice.
In his memory, the NHL created the Bill Masterton Trophy to honor a player who exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.
Former North Star Al MacAdam and current Wild goaltender Josh Harding have been awarded this trophy.
A Roseau, Minn. native who won an NCAA Championship at the U of M in 1979, an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, Neal Broten is one of only two players to win a collegiate championship, an Olympic gold and the Hobey Baker (Ed Balfour is the other player).
Broten was, of course, a member of that Miracle on Ice team, playing for his college coach, the legendary Herb Brooks.
His claim to fame, however, might be fighting Wayne Gretzky in the 1982-83 season.
This man did it all.
A defenseman for the North Stars from 1968 to 1978, Lou Nanne is probably best known as the general manger and coach of the team after his playing days had concluded.
He was successful as a GM, leading the team to seven consecutive playoff seasons and an appearance in the 1981 Stanley Cup Final.
Coached by John Mariucci at the University of Minnesota and the captain of the U.S. Olympic team in 1968, where he played alongside Herb Brooks, Nanne was a Minnesota hockey guy through and through.
Who else would it be?
After winning a state championship in 1955 and playing at the U of M for four years, he was the last cut from the 1960 Olympic team that won gold.
He went on to coach at Minnesota, leading the Golden Gophers to three NCAA Championships and then leading the Miracle on Ice team to a victory over the Soviet Union in 1980.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.