The 1972-73 and 1973-74 season were of continued struggles for the Minnesota North Stars. Despite this, they managed to churn out two stellar players in Bill Goldsworthy and Dennis Hextall. In 1972 Goldsworthy was apart of the legendary Summit Series where Team Canada faced the Soviet Union. Goldsworthy was benched for the tournament following a series of bad penalties. In videos he is the one who skates off the ice, giving the finger to the Soviet faithful. Missing the playoffs for the first time in four years, famed goaltender Gump Worsley decided to retire.
By this point in 1974, the National Hockey League had expanded to 16 teams and added two more to the fold with the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts. This marked the first year of four seperate divisions in two conferences. The Prince Of Wales Conference saw the Adams Division with Buffalo, Boston, Toronto and California and the Norris Division with Montreal, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Washington. On the other side, the Clarence Campbell Conference saw the Patrick Division filled with Philadelphia, both New York teams and Atlanta. The Smythe Divisions hosted Vancouver, St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City and of course Minnesota.
New opponents did not promote optimism as the North Stars missed the playoffs for the next two years. The 1976-77 seasons saw a return to the playoffs but marked short as they were sent packing in the first round to Buffalo.
The Stars finished dead last in 1977-78 with a league worst record of 18-53-9 record. They were immediately found in financial trouble as they struggled to keep fans in the seats at the Met Center. They weren’t alone however. The Cleveland Barons, (who were moved from California as the Golden Seals in 1976) were also facing financial hardship. The NHL made the decision to merge the two clubs, resulting in decreasing the number of teams in the league to 17. Keeping Minnesota’s name, arena and colours, they were placed into Cleveland’s spot in the Adams Division. New ownership and management would consists of Cleveland brass. Ohio wouldn’t see NHL hockey again until the formation of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite all these new changes in place for the 1978-79 season, the North Stars continued their losing ways finishing last and missing the playoffs once again. Bobby Smith soared with 30 goals and 44 assists and was awarded the Calder Trophy.
In the 1979-80 season, the North Stars put to rest one of the longest winning streaks in sports history. The Philadelphia Flyers went on a 35 game winning streak until Minnesota put the stop to that with a 7-1 win. Finally in 1980 the Stars finished third in the season and swept the Toronto Maple Leafs three straight in the first round of the playoffs. The second round brought the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Montreal Canadiens. Building off the momentum they had against Toronto, the Stars won the first two games in Montreal. However, you can never count out “Les Habitants” as they stormed back winning the next three games. Minnesota forced a seventh game and stunned the Canadiens with a 3-2 victory. The semi-finals brought on the Broad Street Bullies. Philadelphia decided enough was enough and ended the Stars playoff run winning 4 games to 1.
Minnesota’s glory years, the 80’s are up in the next installment.
In case you missed Part One: http://blackoutdallas.com/2013/01/16/history-of-the-stars-minnesota-1969-1972/
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