Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Anniversary Of Sorts

I'm not one who is big on anniversaries or birthdays. I'll celebrate my own birthday with a few friends and family, but I don't get excited for them like some do. Today, there could be a party thrown for an anniversary of sorts in the Twin Cities as today marks the day when the first players were signed by the expansion IHL Minnesota Moose! For a guy who had written about the Manitoba Moose for years, writing "Minnesota Moose" feels so foreign. Today, though, marks the day when the first few players were added to the Moose roster for their inaugural season in 1994-95!

One year earlier, hockey fans in the Twin Cities were having their hearts torn out as the Minnesota North Stars moved south to Dallas by "supervillain" Norm Green. Originally, Green wanted to move the team to Anaheim, California, but the NHL had already begun negotiations with the Walt Disney Company regarding a team in that locale, so Green shifted his view from southwest to south, finding Dallas, Texas as the team's new home. Minnesota, which calls itself "the state of hockey", suddenly found itself without professional hockey amongst its ranks.

Professional hockey returned to Minneapolis and St. Paul when majority owner Kevin McLean and minority owner Roger Sturgeon purchased an expansion franchise in the IHL on December 16, 1993. The team would sign a three-year agreement for their new home in the 16,000-seat Saint Paul Civic Center in downtown St. Paul on April 7, 1994, and the team would run a contest in cooperation with the St. Paul Pioneer Press for a "name-the-team" contest starting on May 1. On May 13, six finalists would be named as the potential new name of the IHL club: Moose, Mallards, Bobcats, Tomcats, Mustangs, and Wizards. On May 20, the team announced that "Moose" would be the new name of the club after 4000 people cast votes on those six names!

Things would pick up from there for the Moose as they got settled. May 23 saw the first deposit put down for season tickets, and the team would open the doors to season ticket buyers for an "open house" on seat selection. While the team would play a number of games at the Target Center in Minneapolis, the majority of games would be held at the Saint Paul Civic Center. Fans, hungry for professional hockey, demanded games be shown on TV's Midwest Sports Channel, and showed incredible support in terms of merchandise sales. In 1994-95, the Minnesota Moose led all minor league hockey sales in total merchandise revenue! Support for the IHL team was strong!

July 8, 1994 saw the Minnesota Moose ink their first two contracts with a pair of Minnesota-born hockey players to officially begin building a team! Former Buffalo Sabre, San Jose Shark, and Philadelphia Flyer Dave Snuggerud signed on to play with the Moose, and John Young followed suit by putting his signature on a contract. At the time, the Moose logo seen above hadn't been unveiled, meaning that Snuggerud and Young basically signed contracts that had no logo or team identity other than the name printed on it!

Dave Snuggerud, born in Minnetonka, Minnesota, played in 265 NHL games in his career. He starred with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1985-87 before making a jump to play with the US National Team. He returned to the University of Minnesota for the '88-89 season, finishing his collegiate career with 73 goals, 67 assists, and 124 penalty minutes in 126 NCAA games. Thanks to his respectable numbers, the Buffalo Sabres selected him in the 1987 Supplemental Draft, and he is the stand-out of that Supplemental Draft class by a large margin. In his one year with the US National Team, Snuggerud played at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta where the US team missed out on the medal qualification round. Snuggerud did score three goals and two assists in his six Olympic games.

Snuggerud's best season under the NHL's bright lights came in his rookie campaign with the Sabres in 1989-90. He played 81 games in a checking role, yet used his offensive abilities to notch 14 goals and add another 16 assists. Snuggerud would play two-and-a-half seasons with the Sabres before Buffalo dealt him to San Jose for Wayne Presley on March 9, 1992. Snuggerud's diminishing ice time in Buffalo grew smaller in San Jose where he primarily used as a checking winger for specific roles. In 36 games over two seasons with the Sharks, Snuggerud scored four goals and six assists while compiling 18 PIMs. San Jose moved him on December 19, 1992 to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Mark Pederson and future considerations. Snuggerud would only play 14 games for the Flyers, recording just two assists.

Snuggerud retired from hockey at the end of the 1993 seasion, and he returned to University of Minnesota to complete Bachelor of Business Administration degree in September 1993. However, Snuggerud jumped at the chance to play hockey at home when the Moose approached him. Snuggerud looked quite comfortable in a Moose uniform as he rediscovered his old scoring ways in notching 25 goals and 23 assists in 72 games, finishing fifth in team scoring for the Moose despite playing on a sub-.500 team. Snuggerud would only spend one season in Moose colors, though, as he retired from hockey permanently after the 1994-95 season.

John Young, the other player to sign on July 8, 1994, had a far less "NHL-lights" career, but he was also a solid collegiate player. Young was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, so he was definitely coming home to play hockey in signing with the Moose. Young had a solid university career in playing four years at Michigan Tech from 1989-93 where he posted 61 goals, 149 assists, and 183 penalty minutes in 155 NCAA games. He went undrafted, though, and started his path in professional hockey by signing on with the ECHL's Greensboro Monarchs. In 66 games with the Monarchs in 1993-94, Young continued his torrid scoring in recording 35 goals and 69 assists! He did appear in four AHL games that season - two with Rochester and two with Cornwall - where he scored his only goal and point in the AHL with the Cornwall Aces. The summer after his great ECHL season and taste of AHL action, Young came home to St. Paul to sign with the IHL's Minnesota Moose!

Young had a great season with the Moose, finishing fourth in team scoring with 17 goals and 32 assists - one entire point ahead of Dave Snuggerud! Young, though, only played one season with the Moose as well. In the summer of 1994, he had started playing roller hockey with the Roller Hockey International team based in Minneapolis called the Minnesota Arctic Blast where he led the team in scoring. After the conclusion of the '94-95 IHL season, Young played for the Minnesota Blue Ox for three games over the summer where he collected an astounding ten points. He then joined the Arctic Blast once more in 1996, finishing second in team scoring, before retiring from hockey in all forms.

Today's a pretty big day in Minnesota hockey history when you consider that the IHL's Minnesota Moose actually led to the revival of two NHL cities as the Wild were founded in Minnesota in 2000, and the Jets returned to Winnipeg in 2011 after the Moose moved to Manitoba in 1996. The two players who were the first to sign with the Moose franchise were Dave Snugerrud and John Young for all you trivia buffs, and the Moose logo? It was actually unveiled on July 21, 1994 after being designed by Richard Valentine of Valentine Designs in Edina, Minnesota!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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