Opinion: The NHL Should Consider Giving Minnesota Second Team
A very, very unscientific opinion by Dave Overlund
Yes, I am still bitter about the North Stars leaving Minnesota 20 years ago. Watching the Wild play the Stars in Dallas on Tuesday night I was struck by how empty the stands were, and how empty they seem to be on a nightly basis in that market.
Dallas is second-to-last in the NHL in attendance based on arena capacity at 76.4% of seats filled per game this season. Tuesday night they only managed an announced attendance of just over 11,000--only 60.4% of the building's capacity.
The Stars have been in the bottom 1/3 of NHL attendance each season since 2010.
In my opinion, this gives the NHL a chance to make up for one of the biggest blunders in league history by moving the Stars back to Minnesota.
Obviously, the Stars' lease with American Airlines Arena that runs until 2030 would be a huge obstacle, but for argument's sake let's assume the league recognizes the market's inability to sustain a professional hockey team and is interested in buying out the lease early.
My proposal: Move the Dallas Stars (or Phoenix Coyotes, or Columbus Blue Jackets, or Florida Panthers etc.) to Minneapolis to play at Target Center.
There is no doubt the state of Minnesota is behind the Wild, who play at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. However, the fans attending Wild games in my experience are not the same kind of fans who used to turn out at Met Center for North Stars games.
With lower-bowl ticket prices costing over $100 per game on the sides of the rink a whole new hockey fan has emerged in St. Paul to cheer on the Wild.
Gone are the days of blue collar workers meeting up outside of the Met Center to tailgate, talk hockey and drink beer in their Hanson Brothers glasses and Jack Carlson North Stars jerseys.
Fans at the X currently dine at Pazza Luna in downtown St. Paul ($44 lamb chops-good if you can afford it!) and show up at games in the middle of the second period with glasses of wine in their hands.
Many Wild fans seem more concerned with mingling in the Club Level and "being seen" than with who actually wins.
The Target Center in Minneapolis is obviously not the hockey facility that Xcel Energy Center is. However, that is precisely what would make this idea work in my opinion.
The "new" team could move into the Target Center and presumably sign a favorable lease based on the lack of winter tenants outside of the Timberwolves.The lease would hopefully lead to cheaper tickets and a more "blue collar" atmosphere that would allow the Minneapolis franchise to reach a segment of fans that are currently priced out of Wild games.
Think about it: the Minneapolis Stars taking on the Minnesota Wild at Target Center on a Friday night in front of a packed house, then playing again on a Saturday night in St. Paul in front of the opposite fans.