Lou Nanne remembers the Met Center crowd, the noise, the anticipation. It was like a playoff game in January.
“And it started before the game,” Nanne recalled. “It was nuts. The venue was nuts.”
On Tuesday night, the Wild will attempt to do what no team has done to the Chicago Blackhawks all season — hand them a regulation loss. Chicago’s streak of getting points in games has run to 22 to start the season. Going back to last season, that number stands at 28, tied for second in NHL history.
But Minnesota teams have a history of breaking streaks. On Jan. 30, the Wild handed Chicago the first of its three shootout losses this season.
But let’s go back a few decades. On Jan. 7, 1980, Philadelphia came to Minnesota having not lost in 35 games — 25 wins and 10 ties. It is a record that still stands and one that was broken in a 7-1 North Stars victory that night. Nanne, the team’s general manager at the time, called it the North Stars’ most significant regular-season victory.
“I remember playing in playoff games there at the Met that didn’t have the atmosphere that game had,” said Craig Hartsburg, who scored one of those seven goals. Hartsburg is now an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. “I think every player who played in that game will remember it.”
The 15,962 fans who were there — it was the largest crowd in team history to that point — started loud and got louder as the Stars spotted the Flyers the first goal, then came roaring back to score seven straight. This against a Flyers team that had such players as Ken Linseman, Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke and Paul Holmgren and that advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals that spring.
Bill Barber scored the game’s first goal 3:49 into the first period.
Then it was all Minnesota. Mike Eaves, Greg Smith and Steve Payne scored before the first period ended. After Holmgren’s second-period goal was waved off because the Flyers had too many men on the ice, Hartsburg and Mike Polich scored 21 seconds apart to make it 5-1. Ron Zanussi and Bobby Smith scored in the third.
This being the Flyers — the Broad Street Bullies — you can imagine what happened next. As the game ended, both benches cleared and there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Stars coach Glen Sonmor became so irate at Linseman and John Paddock he had to be restrained as the crowd started a chant of “Go home Flyers, Go home Flyers.”
“I’m glad it’s over,” Flyers coach Pat Quinn said after the game. But, he said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
That’s the way the North Stars felt, too. “What an amazing thing,” Hartsburg said. “Thirty-five games. It was unheard of then. I know Chicago is close, but they have a ways to go yet. It was a feather in our cap.”