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Updated: May 14th, 2014 8:34am
P.J.R.: A Stanley Cup is going to end championship famine

P.J.R.: A Stanley Cup is going to end championship famine

by Patrick Reusse
1500ESPN.com
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The Minneapolis Lakers are recognized in the NBA archives for having won championships in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. They also won a championship in their first season of 1948, in the National Basketball League, before moving into the Basketball Association of America (officially the NBA forerunner).

The two leagues merged in August 1949 and became the NBA.

The Lakers played six more seasons in Minneapolis after their final championship, before moving to Los Angeles in April 1960. One year later, the Twins and the Vikings started playing at Met Stadium, making this an actual major league area.

The North Stars started as part of the NHL's first expansion in the fall of 1967. They left after 26 seasons, moving to Dallas in the spring of 1993. The NHL returned with the expansion Wild in the fall of 2000. With one season lost to an owners' lockout of the players (2004-05), the Wild has played 13 seasons in St. Paul.

That adds to 39 seasons of NHL hockey in Minnesota.

The NBA returned to Minneapolis in the fall of the 1989 with the expansion Timberwolves. They completed a 25th season last month.

That adds to 31 seasons of NBA basketball in Minnesota since the Lakers last title was won : On April 12, 1954, with an 87-80 victory over the Syracuse Nationals in a seventh game played in Minneapolis.

The Vikings have played 53 seasons and the Twins have played 52 seasons in which there were champions crowned by their sports. The difference in numbers is the players' strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series.

Championships are defined as winning everything that's possible to win in a team's sport. That means the pre-merger 1969 Vikings winning the NFL title before losing the Super Bowl does not a champion make.

I'm not including the Duluth Kelleys or Eskimos and other Minnesota teams in the formative years of pro football. I'm not including the Minnesota Pipers or Muskies in the ABA, the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the WHA, the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA or the Minnesota Fillies of the Women's Professional Basketball League in this accounting.

We're talking about the franchises in the four major professional leagues in this country: NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA.

Minnesota teams have played 175 seasons in the 60 years since the Lakers won that last title, and we have two championships: the World Series won by the Twins in 1987 and 1991.

We are on a streak of 82 seasons without a champion since October 1991: 23 for the Vikings and the Timberwolves, 21 for the Twins  and 15 for the North Stars/Wild.

Which of our teams in the four major sports leagues will next bring a champion to Minnesota?

That has been a slow-day question to pose on talk radio in recent years, or to offer up on Websites and in social media when looking for conversation.

We now have the answer. The team to end the famine will be the Wild. Within two or three years, the Skating Ws will win a Stanley Cup, and it will be quite a parade.

Chicago was a team still in its prime as it eliminated the Wild on Tuesday night, with a magical moment of stick work from Patrick Kane in the first overtime.

Yet, there's a lot of wear-and-tear on these Blackhawks, from their long runs toward the Stanley Cup, and their Olympic duties, and I don't think this Chicago team has as much steam as it did as champions a year ago.

In contrast, the Wild is a team entering its prime. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and, yes, Mikko Koivu, will remain stable forces, but the true dynamism has arrived with Mikael Granlund, Nino Niedereitter, Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula, to name the most dynamic.

The hockey insiders say Jonas Brodin took a small step back this season, but he was outstanding during the Wild's last stand on Tuesday. He's going to be tremendous. And Matt Dumba will be the kid to make a splash on defense next season in 2014-15, by all accounts.

The current nucleus gives the Wild a large advantage over the three other teams in town in the timeline for a potential championship. And that advantage is multiplied by the culture of the sport and the roots of its players.

There are outstanding players with a Minnesota connection around the NHL who look at this as a place to come home to, rather than as a place to get away from as rapidly as possible when a season ends (as do most ballplayers, gridders and hoopers).

Thomas Vanek wants to wind up with the Wild as a free agent because he played for the Gophers and married a Minnesotan. Matt Niskanen might want to wind up here as a free agent because he's from the Range. These Minnesota connections go on and on in the NHL, and only in the NHL among the four majors.

The Wild also has the right owner in Craig Leipold, it has the right general manager in Chuck Fletcher, it has the right scouting staff and, as demonstrated in these playoffs, it has the right coach in Mike Yeo.

St. Paul can start planning the parade. The Stanley Cup's on the way ... a couple of years, three at the max.

--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse
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