The sun came out over the State of Hockey on Saturday afternoon, yet the stars were shining. On the ice, that is.
The Minnesota North Stars, with and assist from some prominent former Minnesota Wild players, renewed a 34-year-old rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in advance of Sunday's NHL Stadium Series contest between the Wild and Blackhawks.
The North Stars broke open a tight game in the third period and skated off with a 6-4 victory against their long-time nemesis. Denis Maruk, Brian Bellows, Andrew Brunette, Wes Walz, Bobby Smith and Mike Modano each scored for Minnesota, but it was the goaltending of Gilles Meloche and game MVP Don Beaupre, which stole the show.
Beaupre raved about the atmosphere in the building, but said he wished he had sharpened his skates a little more.
"The ice was really hard and when you pushed off I was sliding a little bit so I didn't feel real strong out there," Beaupre said. "But you get lucky sometimes. I got hit by a few (shots) and made a couple saves, and I settled down a little bit. But it was never comfortable; I'm glad it's over."
Nostalgia filled the stadium as 37,922 fans seized the opportunity to turn back the clock and watch their favorite North Stars legends go toe-to-toe one last time with the hated Blackhawks of days gone by in the Stadium Series Alumni Game.
For most in attendance, the game was a celebration of Minnesota's beloved NHL hockey past with a nod to its cherished present.
"The turnout was spectacular," North Stars coach Lou Nanne said. "It’s hard to envision 38,000 coming to watch old-timers play. As much as I knew it’d be great, I didn’t expect that."
Former North Stars Neal Broten, Craig Hartsburg, and Steve Payne joined Wild greats Darby Hendrickson, Brian Rolston, and Richard Park donning white North Stars home sweaters with a Wild logo affixed to the left shoulder.
They made the journey from the tunnel to the rink amid a raucous, heartfelt ovation and pyrotechnics with Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys Are Back in Town' echoing throughout the stadium.
Not surprisingly, a chorus of boos greeted the Blackhawks as they entered in their classic red sweaters adorned with its iconic logo trimmed in black and white.
The ceremonial first puck drop was an emotional one as Donna Parise, Helen Oliver, June Ness (Goldsworthy), widows of former North Stars J.P. Parise, Murray Oliver, and Bill Goldsworthy, handled the honors.
One rivalry, which didn't take long to resume, was that of Dino Ciccarelli and Denis Savard. The two dropped the gloves in front of the Minnesota bench 25 seconds into the game, but it was all in fun as the two were sharing a good laugh as they were separated.
"It surprised me with Denis, he normally doesn't do that unless Al Secord is on his left wing," Ciccarelli said. "So he kind of caught me off guard a little bit. I was giving (Brad) Maxwell and (Jack) Carlson crap because normally they come in and take care of business for me. I normally started them and got out of there."
Playing on a line with Hendrickson and Brunette, Denis Maruk scored the game's first goal, beating Blackhawks goaltender Murray Bannerman with a nice snap shot at 5:12 of the first.
To a man, locally-raised Wild players Zach Parise, Ryan Carter, Mike Reilly, and Nate Prosser said they looked most forward to the chance to watch and scout their assistant coaches.
"They've been on the ice every day with us so there's not much of an excuse for them not to keep up," Carter said.
The Wild's assistants were less excited to be reviewed by their players.
"I hope there's no game film because they'll probably want to break it down and critique us," Brunette said with a laugh. "A couple of turnovers, a couple of hopers, and all the things we say not to do we probably did a few times out there."
Brunette was one of two players, Chicago's Troy Murray being the other, to score on penalty shots.
"We were hearing it all day from guys that we're nervous, are we ready, and all this stuff," Hendrickson said. "We showed up to play, we won the game and it was a good day."
Nanne came away from the experience impressed with the competitiveness of his team.
"When that game started going, even though guys can’t skate, guys were yelling from the bench, and everybody wants to win," he said. "It was that little extra push because you wanted to end up winning the game.
"It might not seem like anything, but as I told them before the game, ‘This is the last game we’re going to play against the Blackhawks. We’re not losing this game.’"