In the past week, though, a change has occurred, initiated, perhaps, by a group of players' wives who visited Dallas. The North Stars won two straight games, against the Los Angeles Kings and the Buffalo Sabres, after the wives were taken on a grand tour of their new city by Green, romanced by Dallas-area real estate agents and given $9,000 worth of cowboy boots by a Dallas businessman. They reported to their husbands that maybe there would be life after Minneapolis, after all. The report seemed to have a settling effect. The team suddenly was only one point from gaining the fourth and final playoff spot in the division, with four games remaining, when the Blues arrived last Saturday, and the Blues were the team with the one-point lead. The teams would play again the following night in St. Louis.
Wouldn't that be a kick? Beat out the Blues, get into the playoffs, win and win again, and keep the season going in Minnesota? Win one round in the playoffs, and then another and another and another, and end everything with the Stanley Cup being carried around the Met? Wouldn't that be the finish of finishes?
"If that ever happened, I have a hunch that Cup never would get out of Minneapolis," says Pat Forciea, a Minnesota native and senior vice-president of the North Stars. "They might want to see it in Dallas, but I don't think it'd get too far from 53rd and Dupont."
In one pregame ceremony on Saturday the banners bearing the retired numbers of Bill Goldsworthy and Bill Masterton, who died in 1968, were taken down from the rafters and donated to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn. ("What can I say?" Goldsworthy said. "It's only been retired for 14 months. I thought it would be there longer than that.") In another ceremony, Al Shaver, a North Star broadcaster for all 26 years, was honored. ("I think Norm was going to move the team from the beginning," Shaver said. "I think that was his idea when he bought the team. We all should have known when he changed the uniforms, taking away the N and leaving just the word STARS on the jersey. Stars? You can be Stars anywhere.") Finally, Minnesota native and 13-year North Star center Neal Broten was honored, given a silver hockey stick.
"It'll be different in Dallas," he said. "I won't need as many tickets, for sure."
In the first period Minnesota fell behind 2-0. Norm sucks. In the second period the North Stars outshot the Blues 21-5 and took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Gaetan Duchesne with 49 seconds left. Norm sucks. In the final period, Norm sucks, they hung on for a 4-3 win. Following this with a 5-1 loss on Sunday in St. Louis, they were one point behind the Blues with games to play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday at the Met and against the Red Wings in Detroit on Thursday. The idea of a final, emotional run at the Cup in the final season was still alive.
"What would you do if the North Stars won the Cup?" a reporter said over the phone to Green, who was in Palm Springs. "I'd take it to Dallas," Green replied. "It'd be an interesting scenario, wouldn't it?"
A half-hour later the reporter's phone rang. Green corrected himself. A stroke of conscience? A bit of outside advice? "No," he said. "If the North Stars won the Cup, I'd let the people of Minnesota enjoy it."
The people of Minnesota were not holding their well-exercised breath.