The Minnesota Wild are a professional ice hockey team based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They are members of the Northwest Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The team's inaugural season was in 2000. As of April 9, 2008, the Wild have sold out every home game in franchise history at their home arena, the Xcel Energy Center.
The new NHL team is officially named the Minnesota Wild. The unveiling occurred in front of Aldrich Arena. The Minnesota Wild announced its first major sponsorship agreement with the Minnesota Wild Mastercard card from First USA. It was the earliest that First USA has ever signed an agreement in advance of a team beginning play (31 months). The State of Minnesota agreed in legislation to fund $65 million of the $130 million project costs for Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Saint Paul Civic Center deconstruction began soon thereafter and the Xcel Energy Center design was announced. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Xcel Energy Center was hosted in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Minnesota Wild announced a 26-year partnership agreement with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (MASC). The Minnesota Wild-MASC partnership is the first partnership of its kind between a private professional sports team and a public amateur sports organization. Doug Risebrough was named executive vice president/general manager of Minnesota Wild and the Xcel Energy Center was completed and ready for use.
The Wild would get off to a strong start by getting at least 1 point in their first 7 games. However the Wild would finish in last place again with a record of 26-35-12-9. Along the way, there were signs the Wild were improving as second-year speedster Gaborik had a solid season with 30 goals, no sophomore slump, and Andrew Brunette led the team in scoring with 69 points.
Gaborik spends much of the season vying for the league scoring crown, and the Wild, in their first ever playoff appearance, make it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being swept 4-0 by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Previously, the Wild had beaten the favoured and third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the first round in seven games, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit and winning both Game 6 and 7 in overtime. Brunette scored the series clinching goal. In the Western Conference semifinals, the Wild beat the fourth-seeded Vancouver Canucks, again in seven games, and again after being down 3-1 in a series. In the process, the Wild became the first team in playoff history to capture a seven-game series twice after facing elimination during Game 5.
When this season started, the Wild were short-handed with both Pascal Dupuis and Gaborik holding out. After struggling in the first month, the Wild finally got their two young star left-wingers signed but both struggled to get back into game shape as the Wild struggled through much of November. In a deep hole the Wild could not climb back into the playoffs despite finishing the season strong with wins in 5 of their last 6 games as they finished last in the competitive Northwest Division with a record of 30-29-20-3. Along the way the Wild began to gear up for the future, trading away several of their older players who were a part of the franchise from the beginning, including Brad Bombardir and Jim Dowd.
Season cancelled due to lockout. Former Wild player Sergei Zholtok died from a heart condition during a game in Europe. Zholtok died in the arms of Minnesotan and former Wild player Darby Hendrickson.
The Wild signed veteran free agents Kim Johnsson, Mark Parrish, Branko Radivojevic, and Keith Carney. On the day of the NHL Entry Draft, they traded the 17th overall pick and prospect Patrick O'Sullivan to the Los Angeles Kings for veteran Slovakian Pavol Demitra. Niklas Bäckström was the starting goalie for the Wild after previous starter Manny Fernandez sprained his knee on Jan. 20. Fernandez played for the first time since the sprain on Tuesday, March 6th and was removed after allowing three goals in two periods in the Wild's 3-0 loss to San Jose. Josh Harding, was brought up from the Wild's minor-league affiliate, the Houston Aeros, when Fernandez was hurt, and remained on Minnesota's roster for the rest of the season as the backup goalie. All-Star winger Marian Gaborik returned from a groin injury in January 2007 and made an immediate impact, bringing a new spark to a lacking offense.
The Wild made the playoffs in 2007 for the second time in team history but were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks in the opening round. Notably, the same Anaheim franchise eliminated the Wild in their first playoff year, in the conference finals, in 2003.
The Wild broke numerous franchise records including most goals and points in a season (Marian Gaborik- 42 Goals and 83 Points). Also, Jacques Lemaire recorded his 500th career coaching win and the Wild clinched their first ever Northwest Division title in a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on April 3, 2008. They again faced Colorado in the first round as 6th and 3rd seed (as in the 2003 playoffs), but this time the roles were reversed, as this time the Wild held home-ice advantage. However, Minnesota came up short, being ousted in six games by the Avalanche.
During the offseason of 2008, the Wild re-acquired Andrew Brunette from the Avalanche, as well as trading for defenseman Marek Zidlicky. The Wild also signed free agents Antti Miettinen and Owen Nolan to multi-year deals.
Leipold is the majority owner and principal investor in MSE, a regional sports and entertainment leader that includes the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, its minor league affiliate the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League, the National Lacrosse League’s Minnesota Swarm, Wildside Caterers, 317 on Rice Park and the facility management of Xcel Energy Center and the Saint Paul RiverCentre. He also serves as the team’s Governor at NHL Board of Governors’ meetings. The partnership still owns the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League (NLL). Along with the Wild and the Swarm, the group also operates the Xcel Energy Center, the Saint Paul RiverCentre and Roy Wilkins Auditorium. The group has recently extended its business through a majority stake in Wildside Caterers. The partnership also owns and operates 317 on Rice Park, which is the former historic Minnesota Club. On January 10, 2008, it was announced that the franchise is being sold to former Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|2003-04||82||30||29||20||3||83||188||183||1035||5th, Northwest||Did not qualify|
|2004-05||Season cancelled due to 2004–05 NHL lockout|
|2005-061||82||38||36||—||8||84||231||215||1211||5th, Northwest||Did not qualify|
|2006-07||82||48||26||—||8||104||235||191||850||2nd, Northwest||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 1-4 (Ducks)|
|2007–08||82||44||28||—||10||98||223||218||1086||1st, Northwest||Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 2-4 (Avalanche)|
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Wild player