MINNEAPOLIS -- The Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild and Minnesota North Stars alumni teams got the red carpet treatment entering TCF Bank Stadium for the 2016 NHL Stadium Series Alumni Game on Saturday.
"To see guys like Willi Plett, Steve Payne and Brad Maxwell is awesome," Blackhawks alum Chris Chelios said. "When I was here in 1983 with the U.S. Olympic Team, we watched the North Stars that whole year. So I got to know all these guys.
"I haven't seen them in 30-something years, so this is going to be fun."
Chelios joked that he was especially happy to see North Stars alum Dino Ciccarelli. They will be teammates on the Detroit Red Wings alumni team that will play the Colorado Avalanche alumni Feb. 26 at Coors Field, the day before the Stadium Series game in Denver.
"I'd like to take a run at Dino [Ciccarelli], but I have to play with him next weekend in an outdoor game for Detroit," Chelios said.
U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and former North Stars forward Neal Broten, a Minnesota legend from the town of Roseau, was all smiles as he exited the alumni bus to fans seeking autographs.
"This almost feels like I'm playing again," he said. "It's pretty neat to see all the fans out here cheering. It's been a long time, so I'm looking forward to the game and having some fun with all the guys I know well."
Broten helped the University of Minnesota win the NCAA title in 1979, then won Olympic gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. He was the first winner of the Hobey Baker Award in 1981 and won the Stanley Cup with the 1995 New Jersey Devils. He's the only player in hockey history to have won all four.
"Just having the chance to play with all the players that made those titles a reality was great," Broten said. "But that 1980 Olympic team win was special. We weren't even supposed to win a medal and the team was really unselfish and we played like a hockey team should play, passing the puck and working for one another. It was a treat being on that team."
Herb Brooks, a Minnesota native, coached the 1980 Olympic team, and after his death in a car accident Aug. 11, 2003, his legacy lives on in part through his former players.
"Herbie got the best out of you," Broten said. "I don't necessarily know if he taught me anything, but he just expected you to play hard every night and he let you know when you weren't. So play hard every night; that's what he taught me."
Most of the North Stars alums prepared for the game during a skate at Richfield Ice Arena on Friday afternoon. Among them to walk the red carpet Saturday were Mike Modano, Don Beaupre and Bobby Smith.
"We've been talking about this game for months, so we're really looking forward to it," Modano said. "To see these guys I played with years ago who were part of my career when I first started, and all the fans is great. There's a lot of sentimental and emotional attachment I still have to this state."
Modano was taken by the North Stars with the first pick of the 1988 NHL Draft and played his first five seasons in Minnesota. In all, he spent 20 of his 21 NHL seasons with the North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise. He set records for U.S.-born NHL players in goals (561) and points (1,374). He's second to Phil Housley in assists (813) and to Chelios in games played (1,499).
The Blackhawks alumni also included Jeremy Roenick and Denis Savard.
Team Minnesota coaches Tom Reid, Mike Ramsey and Lou Nanne, and Chicago coaches Tony Esposito and Pat Foley, also walked the red carpet.
"It's great to be in charge for a change because I was never in charge," Esposito said. "It was great to see all the players and reminisce about old stories and have a couple of beers together. If these guys don't know what to do, then I can't teach them anything now.
"I know we're going to have a lot of fun but give a good effort. Whatever happens, happens."