Wednesday, October 21, 2015

1967-68 Minnesota North Stars Bill Masterton Jersey

The Minnesota North Stars were granted a franchise in the NHL expansion of 1967 and their name was chosen following a name the team contest, with 608 different names submitted from 1,536 entries. The name "North Stars" was inspired by the Minnesota state motto "L'Etoile du Nord", French for "The Star of the North".

Other suggested names were Blades, Norsemen, Muskies, Lumberjacks, Mallards, Voyageurs and the simply horrid Puckaroos!

A new arena was a necessity in order for Minnesota to be granted one of the new franchises, as the largest arena in the area had a capacity of just 8,500, well short of the 12, 500 minimum for the NHL. It was decided  that the new Metropolitan Sports Center would be built across the parking lot from Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins baseball club, in the suburb of Bloomington.

The location was a compromise between the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, as the two cities had a rivalry in minor league baseball which dated back to the turn of the century, and the fears were that an arena built in one city would alienate the citizens living in the other.

Met Center
Metropolitan Sports Center

"Met Center", as it was more commonly known until 1982 when it became the arena's official name, was built at a cost of $7 million and was known for it's great sightlines, excellent ice surface and distinctively colored and randomly distributed gold, white, green and black seats, which at times during the North Stars history were all too visible.

Met Center seats
Met Center's distinctive colored seats

The North Stars played their first four games on the road before returning to Minnesota for their first ever game in the brand new Metropolitan Sports Center on this date in 1967.

North Stars 1st game ticket
North Stars first game ticket stub

Workers were still installing seats on the day of the home opener against the North Stars fellow expansion cousins the California Seals, who Minnesota defeated 3-1 for the first win in franchise history on goals from Bill Goldsworthy, Ray Cullen and Dave Balon.

Goldsworthy first goal at Met Center
Bill Goldsworthy scores the first goal in Met Center history

Following their first home game, the North Stars alternated between hot and cold, going undefeated for four games at a time, but alternating with winless streaks of five or six games until finding themselves at 14-15-8 on the night of January 13th, 1968, when Bill Masterton, who had scored the first goal in North Stars history, was checked and fell backwards, hitting his head on the ice, knocking him unconscious. Masterton suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died two days later at the age of 29, the only player to ever die of an on ice injury in the NHL.

Masterton's #19 was retired by the team and ushered in increasing use of helmets in hockey, which later became mandatory in 1979. The Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded annually in the NHL for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey was created in his memory.

Bill Masterton
Bill Masterton

Following Masterton's death, the North Stars understandably lost five of six and regrouped to play near .500 for the rest of the season to finish at 27-32-15 in fourth place in the West Division made up of the six expansion clubs, four points back of the first place Philadelphia Flyers.

The North Stars were led in goals (35) and points (56) by Wayne Connelly while Andre Boudrias had the most assists (35) and Cesare Maniago led the goaltenders with games played (52) and wins (21). Goldsworthy led the team in playoff scoring with 15 points in 14 games.

1967-68 Minnesota North Stars
The 1967-68 Minnesota North Stars

In the playoffs, the North Stars would eliminate the Los Angeles Kings in seven games, which included three victories on home ice, before falling to the St. Louis Blues on the road in Game 7 when the Blues scored with 11 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, costing the North Stars a chance to host a Stanley Cup Final in the Met Center's first year of operation.

It would not be until 1981 that the finals were played on Met Center ice when the North Stars unsuccessfully attempted to derail the New York Islanders dynasty in progress. Ten years later the Pittsburgh Penguins would hoist Lord Stanley's Cup following their Game 6 defeat of the Cinderella North Stars at the Met Center.

The Met Center was also home to the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament from 1969-1975 as the best high school teams from all around Minnesota, from Rochester in the south to Warroad near the Canadian border skated on the same ice as the NHL stars of the day to determine annually who was the best in the state in front of sold out crowds of 15,000 screaming fans.

 photo Met Center interior.jpg
The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament
playing to a sold out crowd on the North Stars home ice

Other teams to call the Met Center home were the short-lived Minnesota Muskies and Minnesota Pipers of the ABA and the Minnesota Kicks and Minnesota Strikers indoor soccer clubs. Many concerts were also held there throughout it's history, ranging from Frank Sinatra to local superstar Prince.

Eventually the Met Center fell victim to it's outdated design, which lacked the essential number of private suites, although several remodeling efforts added a club area at the upper end of one end and some jury-rigged suites hanging from the roof at the opposite end, but it was not enough to save the North Stars from being relocated in 1993.

Today's featured jersey is a 1967-68 Minnesota North Stars Bill Masteron jersey. This jersey is the first style of sweaters worn during the North Stars inaugural season with a lace-up collar before they were replaced by a v-neck collar early in the season.

The following season the sweaters would change again, with the addition of a white shoulder yoke and remain in use until 1975 when the single white stripe on the arms and waist would be broken into two parallel stripes plus the addition of highly attractive drop shadowed numbers.

Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 jersey photo Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 F jersey.jpg
Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 jersey photo Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 B jersey_1.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1967-68 Minnesota North Stars Cesare Maniago jersey as worn only during the North Stars first preseason series of 14 games from September 16 through October 5, 1967.

Aside from the two styles of sweaters worn during their first season, our friends at VintageMinnesotaHockey.com have brought to light a different set of jerseys worn during the preseason, which featured a different version of the well known "N" logo and a different font used for the numbering, which you can read about here.

This set was discarded before the regular season began for a few reasons. Apparently the North Stars trainer shrank the jersey by washing the cotton/nylon jerseys in hot water and then compounded the mistake by putting them in a hot dryer! Additionally, the team did not like the thin version of the N logo, with it's downward angle upper serif and tiny star above the arrow.

 photo North Stars early logos.png

After this set of jerseys was identified through photos in publicity shots, hockey cards, newspaper articles and programs, the mystery began of just whatever happened to this set of jerseys?

A few years later the most unexpected thing happened. An auction for the contents of a storage locker in 2013 turned out to contain the set of the North Stars white preseason only jerseys, the whereabouts of which were unknown for over 45 years!

To date, only one of the green preseason jerseys known to exist is the Masterton jersey, which his family donated to the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.

Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 preseason jersey photo Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 preseason F jersey.jpg.png
Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 preseason jersey photo Minnesota North Stars 1967-68 preseason B jersey.jpg.png
Photos  from LegendaryAuctions.com

Today's video segment begins with the story of Bill Masterton.



Our next video is one of Met Center's most memorable games, a bench clearing brawl between the North Stars and the rival Chicago Blackhawks.


No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome and encourage genuine comments and corrections from our readers. Please no spam. It will not be approved and never seen.

 

hit counter for blogger