The end of 2012 is quickly approaching; as such, we have compiled a list of the top 12 Minnesota sports stories -- positive or negative -- from the year. We'll be counting them down every weekday from now until Jan. 1, when the top story will run. Here is No. 5:
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed identical contracts with the Wild. Coming off four consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, it's safe to say the Wild was looking to make a splash this offseason. Sure, Minnesota had a host of intriguing, young players ready to potentially make an impact, but what the organization really needed was to show a sense of urgency with its fans.
And on July 4, that mission was vividly accomplished. The Wild signed forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, each to 13-year, $98 million contracts. As someone who both stalked Parise at the airport and was present at their initial news conference, the impact cannot be overstated. Free agents typically don't come to Minnesota in any sport. These were two massive exceptions.
But looming in the distance was the real possibility of labor unrest in the NHL. Even in July, fans spoke of watching Parise and Suter in terms of "if" not "when," even though the ink was dry on the contracts. Their worst fears came true as the NHL spiraled into another lockout, one that now has led to more than half of the 2012-13 regular-season games being canceled.
So the debuts of these two huge free-agent prizes -- and the most promising season in years for the Wild -- have been put on hold, the ultimate twist of cruel fate for Wild fans.