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Minnesota memories? Not many, but Dave Keon did score a milestone marker in the Twin Cities

Signing college free-agents can only help.  You give up no assets and don't have to use a draft choice.  If the players work out, it's all good.  If they don't, you have not invested much.

Importantly, you are acquiring a player way ahead in terms of his development curve.  At 21 or 22, players are far deeper into their career and certainly more mature physically and in terms of life experience.

So Burke's dipping into that pool yet again (Tyler Benner this time) works for me.  More and more teams are doing it, but Burke has been particularly aggressive in this regard during his tenure with the Leafs.

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There is no real rivalry to speak of between the Leafs at the Minnesota franchise, certainly none with the current Wild team.  The Leafs rarely seem to even play Minnesota under the current schedule configuration, so it would be hard to build up much between the two sides.

That said, historically, dating back to the old North Star franchise, there was at least a connection, if not a legitimate rivalry, between the then expansion franchise and the history-rich Maple Leafs.

When Minnesota joined the NHL in 1967, some ex-Leafs soon populated the roster.  Grinding winger J.P. Parise (Devils’ forward Zach’s dad, I believe) became a North Star “star”.  He had been ever so-briefly a member of the blue and white, and was eventually good enough that he became a key figure with Team Canada in 1972 during the classic Summit Series.

Ex-Leaf and later New York Ranger goaltender Cesare Maniago (click on his name to read one of my earlier stories about Maniago) became a mainstay in goal for the North Stars, one of the really popular athletes in the Twin Cities.  Center Murray Oliver, who had his best years with Boston before coming to the Leafs in the post-’67 Cup deal for Eddie Shack, had some really nice seasons with the North Stars.

Forward Ray Cullen had some good years with the North Stars in those years.  He was the younger brother of long-time Maple Leafs Brian and Barry Cullen.  Walt McKechnie, who played with Toronto later under Roger Neilson, spent time in the early expansion days with Minnesota, too.

One thing I seem to recall is that, during the 1972-’73 season, then Leaf captain Dave Keon, seen at right, scored his all-time franchise record-tying or breaking goal in Minnesota.  I’m not a hundred per cent certain which it was.  George Armstrong, the esteemed long-time captain and leader of the Leafs, had established the record of 296 career regular-season goals, having retired after the 1970-’71 season.  Keon beat future Hall-of-Famer Gump Worsley, then in the later days of his illustrious career, in the Minnesota net.  (Historical note:  Keon held the Leaf record until his totals were surpassed by Darryl Sittler.)

In any event, I am perhaps not remembering some great moments in Leaf-Minnesota history, but for me it has been a largely pedestrian, non-rivalry kind of relationship.  (Didn’t we get hammered by the North Stars in a short playoff series when they were building a good young team in the early ‘80s?  Bobby Smith, Steve Payne, Brad Maxwell and some others were becoming a pretty good squad.  But that hardly established a rivalry, just a lousy memory for Leaf fans.)

Having said all this, while there is not much history of note here, it’s a huge game Tuesday night (yet another one) for a Leaf team that believes it is playoff-bound.  They should have enough motivation without having to rely on a historical rivalry to get them up for this one.

4 comments:

  1. Not many Minnesota memories is right! The funny thing about the Wild is that we'd hardly know they were in the league if it weren't for TV. Seems we rarely play them.
    One of my peeves with the league is that it boasts of its status as the greatest hockey league in the world, but in any given year, paying fans won't be able to see every team play in their home rink at least once. Seems that's the least they should do.

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  2. Long suffering Leaf fanMarch 22, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    The spring of 80 was a nightmare for me with the American's taking gold and then the young Stars knocking off my Leafs in 3 games and the Canadiens in 7. All I heard from those American kids when I was attending college in St.Paul Minnesota was how great the American's were compare to the Canadians. Never mind that most of the young Stars were Canadians! Oh well, I do remember the playoffs of 83 where a young Leafs team gave a highly talented Stars team all they could handle. I still believe that they would have upset the Stars that year if two things did not happen. The first being in game two with the Leafs leading late in the game, Palmateer injury and ST. Croix in the net when he let in a soft goal from center ice! Even though they won game 3 and lost in overtime in game 4 with Palmateer in the net. He was never the same with a lame shoulder. Another memory I have of Minnesota was January of 86 when Dan Maloney strip Rick Vaive of the C because he was late for practice. You can say that was the being of the end for number 22 as a Leaf.

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  3. As a transplanted semi-Canadian (I went to high school in Windsor), I always joined the Leafs' and Canadiens' visits to Met Center. My favorite Toronto memory is the season opener one year when Allan Bester played a terrific game in goal. Toronto won, 1-0, in OT. Bester had something like 35 saves. I was the UPI guy assigned to the Toronto locker room. Bester was on Cloud 9 and simply couldn't stop talking about how thrilled he was with the win. "I was born to rock and roll," he said at one point. "That is what this game was about tonight." I have no idea what the hell he was talking about. But it was a fun quote and I led with it in my story.

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  4. I remember lying in bed listening to that Leafs/North Stars series on the radio when my parents thought I was asleep. Thanks for the memories.

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