Jac Sperling, the Wild’s first Chief Operating Officer, conceived the idea of a series of exhibits inside Xcel Energy Center that would reflect the game’s heritage in the state. Starting with the Wild’s second season, Team Curator Roger Godin has added to his original exhibits from season one with new and temporary presentations on various aspects of the great ice sport.
Each year a notable Minnesota player from the past is featured in the Hockey Lodge, the Wild’s main retail outlet, located next to the main entrance at Gate One. This year’s player is Duluth’s Tommy Williams, who is best remembered, for a period, as the sole American in the “Original Six” NHL, 1942-67. Williams played for a number of NHL teams, but locals will most likely recall his time with the North Stars, 1969-71. He was a member of the 1960 Gold Medal winning United States Olympic Team and his skates are on display in the Hockey Lodge exhibit case.
Speaking of the North Stars, they along with the WHA Minnesota Fighting Saints are featured in wall murals located near Sections 109-110 on the Lower Concourse. The murals feature photomontages of game action from both teams, a brief history of each and an accompanying list of State of Hockey natives who played for both teams. The state’s original major league team, the St. Paul Athletic Club, is presently treated on the Upper Concourse by Sections 122-123.
Moving further along the Lower Concourse towards Gate Three, fans will find in the Mini-Gallery Area an exhibit on Warroad, the nation’s first Hockeytown well before Detroit. The town’s legendary senior team, the Lakers, is honored with emphasis on founder Cal Marvin and the squad’s three Allan Cup winners from the 1990’s. Both high school programs are given their due with respective trophies for both boys’ and girls’ state tournament triumphs, as well as a tip of the hat to Henry Boucha, one of the state’s most famous high school players. Boucha went on to an international and professional career.
Also in the Mini-Gallery, the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Museum features, in the large exhibit case, five different enshrines from last year’s grouping: Virgil Johnson, Minneapolis, Tim Sheehy, International Falls, John Matchefts, Eveleth, Bob Paradise, Saint Paul, and Doug Woog, South Saint Paul. Johnson was a member of the 1938 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and the minor-league MVP of the American Hockey Association’s (AMA) for the 1941-42 season. Sheehy was a high school standout who went on to star at Boston College before embarking on a professional career. John Matchefts was an All-American at Michigan and later helped the United States to a Silver Medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics. Bob Paradise came out of then tiny St. Mary’s College in Winona to play in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington and Minnesota. Doug Woog is best remembered as both a Gopher player and head coach.
The Budweiser Blue Line Bar, features two new exhibits. One covers pre-WWII defenseman Manny Cotlow, a Minneapolis native who played principally in the minor-league AHA and subsequently on the wartime Coast Guard Cutters team. The other relates to 21-year NHL veteran Phil Housley, who recently coached the United States Junior Team to a Gold Medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships. Housley is a member of both the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame.
The United States improbable victory at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics is highlighted in an exhibit at the midway point of the stairway connecting the Suite Level, near the Concierge Desk, to the Club Level. There, Wild fans will see an encased chair from the Lake Placid Olympic Field House, the site of the historic win over the former Soviet Union. Donated by Wild season ticket holder Scott Auld and signed by the American gold medal winners, the chair is in the foreground of a large mural showing celebratory American players, most notably native sons Steve Christoff, Mark Pavelich and Mike Ramsey. A total of twelve Minnesotans played on the team.
It may be a short season on the ice, but there’s never a short season for the State of Hockey tribute. Traverse the arena and enjoy what your state has contributed to hockey in the United States.