The Chicago Blackhawks more than any team are supposed to be the reason that realignment into an eight-team conference in the central United States is going to provide a bonanza of interest for the Wild.
The North Stars and the Blackhawks played in a half-dozen playoff series during the decade from 1982 through 1991. The rivalry was at its most fierce from 1982 through 1985, when the teams played in four playoff series, with the Blackhawks winning three.
The Met Center crowd played homage to Chicago's Al Secord with chants of "Secord sucks'' and the customers at Chicago Stadium shouted even more vile epithets in the direction of the Stars' Dino Ciccarelli.
On Wednesday night, the Wild and the Blackhawks played for the first time since the proposed realignment was passed by the NHL owners. Assuming the players' approval, Chicago and Minnesota -- for the first time since 1993 -- will be in the same grouping of NHL teams starting next fall.
This has created visions that Minnesota's heated rivalry with the Blackhawks will be renewed. That's very possible, although it's not going to happen until the makeup of the teams changes, or they engage in a lively playoff series or two.
"I was in standing room at the top of Met Center for some of those playoff games with the Blackhawks,'' Kurt Vergin of Plato said. "Secord ... man, we hated him. We hated all of them. Those were some great nights.''
Vergin was with Mike Richards, who comes from Kenosha, Wis., and is a Blackhawks fan. They had talked of the former Minnesota-Blackhawks rivalry and agreed on this:
There are a minimum of players to dislike on either team, meaning it will take time for villains such as Secord and Ciccarelli to emerge.
"Even the Blackhawks' goon, John Scott, is hard to dislike,'' Vergin said. "We had him here and he was a good guy.''
Chicago does have a disturber in Daniel Carcillo, and he did throw some punches with the Wild's Brad Staubitz early in the second period. Trouble is, Carcillo doesn't play that much. The great thing about the Ciccarelli-Secord hatred was that they were on the ice all the time, contributing to their team's cause.
There were three women in their 20s -- Teresa Mitsch, Brittany Aldape and Katie Carrico -- walking through the corridor after the first period. They were asked if either Dino Ciccarelli or Al Secord was a familiar name.
"I've heard of Ciccarelli,'' Carrico said. "My dad was a fan of his.''
The reporter relayed some Secord-Ciccarelli history, and asked the young fans if they felt capable of picking up the torch and developing a hatred for the Blackhawks.
The answer was disappointing, at best. Mitsch and Aldape said they were fans of both the Blackhawks and the Wild -- that the fondness for the two teams was close to equal.
How could a couple of hockey fans from St. Paul say such a thing?
"I like the Blackhawks because Chicago is such a great town,'' Aldape said. "We're planning a trip down there this winter to see them play the Wild.''
So there's nobody on the Blackhawks that you want to chant nasty things toward -- not even a star like Patrick Kane?
"Definitely not him,'' Mitsch said.
The young women did agree on this: They already have a dislike for Winnipeg, after one game between the Jets and the Wild. It was Tuesday night's fast-paced contest that concluded with the Jets' Zach Bogosian sending Pierre-Marc Bouchard's face into the boards.
"That was so cheap,'' Carrico said. "I can't stand the Jets.''
Winnipeg was in the NHL from 1979 through 1995. It was in a different division than the North Stars and the teams never had a playoff series. Yet, one bloodied mug for a popular player has Wild fans waiting for the rematch in St. Paul on Feb. 16.
As for regaining the anti-Blackhawks passion, Vergin -- the veteran of those Met Center hostilities -- said: "I don't think many of the people sitting around me remember Al Secord. This is much more of a white-collar crowd.
"The fans come from places like Woodbury and Eden Prairie. Back when we had all that hatred for the Blackhawks, Eden Prairie really was a prairie.''
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. firstname.lastname@example.org