So I was recently in Dallas for the first time (I'd been through the airport before, but I hadn't spent any time on the ground) and took in a Stars game. I felt pretty strange going to the game, to tell you the truth. Like I was somehow betraying my childhood.
You see, I grew up in Minnesota with the North Stars. When you grow up in Minnesota you follow hockey. End of story. Because it's permafrost from November to May, there are rinks at every park. You learn to skate as soon as you learn to walk. There is organized hockey at every age. Heck, I once heard that the high school hockey tournament is most-attended annual amateur sporting event in the country. Then you've got a bunch of top notch NCAA division one programs to choose from, and THEN you get to the pros.
I grew up idolizing Neal Broten, Dino Ciccarelli, Gilles Meloche, Don Beaupre, Bobby Smith, and Curt Giles to name a few. I grew up HATING the Blackhawks (Secord Sucks!), Blues, Wings, and Leafs. Living, BREATHING the North Stars. My family had season tickets. I vividly remember the Arby's coupon on the back of the parking stub. The smoke in the blue line club during intermissions. The yellow, green, black and white seats in the Met Center. Al Shaver's voice. I, like so many kids, bled North Stars green.
Speaking of green, enter Norm Green. Now, I understand that the team owner(s) can do what he wants with the team. And furthermore, Minnesotans' love of hockey at all levels, and the abundance of hockey - good hockey - that is available in the state, might have indirectly contributed to the fans' disenfranchisement (as indicated by attendace issues) in the waning years. But it's a far reach to say that the relationship had deteriorated beyond a point where it was mendable. So, when Norm's businesses started falling apart, and with mounting legal issues further clouding the skies above him, he eventually made a series of ultimatums (ultimati?) that the governing municipalities were not willing to accede to so he up and moved the team to Dallas, and the promise of a new (read: more profitable) building.
Look, the North Stars only had one winning season between 1984 and when they moved to Dallas. But to a kid (I was 5 years old in 1980) they were the cat's meow. It's dramatic for sure, but they were my first real love. So losing them, in other words, hurt a lot. Maybe irrationally, maybe I was just too young to deal with it more maturely. But it still hurt. And I certainly wasn't the only one in the state that felt that way.
This gets to the psyche of the Minnesotan sports fan. Though championships have dotted our history, they have been eclipsed in both number and resonance by the failures of our myriad teams.
Continued in Part 2...