The North Stars were playing in the Stanley Cup Finals in May 1991 with a team that had finished 16th among the NHL's 21 in regular-season points.

More remarkable was the playoff run occurred after the chaos that engulfed the franchise a year earlier, starting in January 1990 and lasting to the end of July, when Norm Green seized full control of the organization.

George Gund, co-owner with brother Gordon, wanted to move the money-losing franchise to the Bay Area. Brother Gordon signed off. The possibility of losing the NHL was dramatized on Feb. 1, when the Gunds turned down both a Timberwolves' offer to join them at the new Target Center, or to stay rent-free at Met Center for 10 years.

The crisis was such it required an appearance by Harvey Mackay, the orchestrator of the Twins' ticket buyout in 1984. Harvey stated a group of local all-star business people had been assembled to save the Stars.

"It was a darn impressive list, even if most of the people didn't know they were going to be on it,'' said Rod Wallace, sports booster, and owner of the Thunderbird Motel.

Turned out, we needed outsiders to come up with $31.5 million for the Gunds.

The first savior surfaced on May 2: Howard Baldwin, with his partner, Morris Belzberg. I termed him "Howie the Hairdo,'' for both bravado and what turned out to be the prototype for generational "hockey hair.''

A few weeks later, Baldwin told team President Lou Nanne that Canadian real estate developer Norm Green was being added to the ownership group and would take care of the new ownership group's "money problems.''

Nanne's response: "Howard, I didn't know there were money problems.''

Norm bought 51% and seized full control by late July. The Gunds wound up with a San Jose expansion team for 1991-92 that included a convoluted split of talent they were leaving behind with the North Stars.

What came from the zaniness was a Stanley Cup Final and an owner dedicated to preserving the North Stars in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

Which turned out to be two more seasons.

All together now: "Norm … !"