The Lester Patrick Award, honoring recipients for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, was presented to the National Hockey League by the New York Rangers in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, a pioneer in the sport's development, who spent 50 years as a player, coach and general manager.
Among the four individuals honored in 2008 are Bob Naegele Jr., Phil Housley, Brian Burke and Ted Lindsay.
Bob Naegele Jr.
Returning the top hockey league in the world to the State of Hockey was a dream of many Minnesotans in the mid-1990's. Robert O. Naegele Jr. didn't just share that dream, he made it a reality, assembling the group of investors who were awarded the NHL expansion franchise that became the Minnesota Wild.
A born-and-bred Minnesotan who played goal for Minnetonka High School and then attended Dartmouth College, Naegele already had made a name for himself in the Twin Cities business community as co-owner of the area's prominant billboard company when the NHL announced in 1996 that it would accept applications for expansion franchises.
Determined to fill the hole left when the North Stars departed for Dallas three years before, Naegele pulled together an association of like-minded hockey enthusiast that would become Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE). Under Naegele's leadership and funded by his large personal investment in the project, MSE managed to overcome myriad obstacles to satisy the NHL's stringent franchise requirements - including coordinating city and state officials to get an arena built and ensuring that a large-enough fan base would purchase tickets.
Naegele's tireless work turned the dream into a reality on June 25, 1997, when St. Paul was awarded an expansion franchise. On Oct. 11, 2000, reality exceeded anyone's dreams when the Wild played their first home opener before a sellout crowd in the magnificent Xcel Energy Center.
And that was just the start. The Wild merely have sold out every game - preseason, regular season or playoffs - since for a streak of capacity crowds that reached 300 regular season and playoff games going into the 2008-2009. On the ice, the franchise has been similarly stellar. The Wild won 42 games and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals in just its third season. It won 48 games in 2006-2007 and captured the Northwest Division title last season.
Having shepherded the Wild from mere pipe dream to the model to which many rival franchises look for guidance, Naegele characteristically sought out new challenges. He sold his majority ownership in the Wild to Craig Leipold last January.
"Throughout the entire league, throughout North America, when you look at a franchise that embodies everything that every franchise wants to be, this is the marquee franchise in our league," Leipold said. "This is the new standard in the NHL."
Bob Naegele set that standard.