Last reviewed October 2023
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Professional Hockey in Minnesota
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
Legislative History • Books and Reports • Articles • Additional Library Resources
The Minnesota North Stars were a part of the National Hockey League's (NHL) first expansion franchise. This expansion doubled the NHL's size from six teams to twelve. The Minnesota North Stars played their first home game in the newly constructed Metropolitan Sports Center (Met Center) in Bloomington, Minnesota on October 15, 1967. The Met Center was home to the Minnesota North Stars for 26 years. At the end of the 1993 season the team was moved by team owner Norm Green to Dallas, Texas. The final home game for the Minnesota North Stars was played on April 13, 1993. Demolition of the Met Center began on December 13, 1994.
In 1995, as part of an effort to return professional hockey to Minnesota, St. Paul joined in the bidding wars to attract the Winnipeg Jets to Minnesota. Their efforts fell short due in part to the fact that the St. Paul Civic Center was considered inadequate for a NHL team. In December of 1995, the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix. In November of 1996, St. Paul decided to try again; an investment group, headed by Robert Naegele Junior, applied for an expansion team. Hopes were raised in December of 1996, when Peter Karmanos, the owner of the Hartford Whalers, indicated that he considered St. Paul to be a very viable place to move his team.
In 1997, efforts were made to get state money to either renovate the existing arena or to construct a new one. Both of these efforts failed. People seeking to secure a team for St. Paul were again faced with disappointment when in May of 1997 it was announced that Raleigh, North Carolina would be the new home for the Whalers. This disappointment was short-lived when on June 25, 1997 the NHL announced its final approval for a new St. Paul hockey franchise. In 1998, the state approved an interest-free loan of $65 million to assist with nearly half of the costs related to building a new arena. As allowed by the legislation the team reduced its state loan payment obligation to about $48 million when they negotiated use of the arena with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. The City of St. Paul funded its share, $65 million, of the cost predominately through the issuance of sales tax revenue bonds.
With the financing secured demolition of the old arena began in June 1998. The Minnesota Wild hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new arena on June 23, 1998. The new team played its first home game before a standing-room-only crowd in the new Xcel Energy Center arena on October 11, 2000.
In January 2007, the Republican National Committee announced their selection of the Xcel Energy Center arena in St. Paul as the site for their September 2008 GOP National Convention. In February 2007, debt relief bills related to the Xcel Energy Center/RiverCentre were introduced in the Minnesota Legislature. The GOP convention was mentioned as a partial reason for the debt relief request. The bills that passed were vetoed by Governor Pawlenty. In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature passed another loan repayment bill that was line item vetoed. The Governor did sign a bill that allowed the city to continue the tax increment financing district around the arena.
In January 2013, the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee held a hearing on the effects of an ongoing labor lockouts, including an NHL lockout, on area businesses and the city of St. Paul. The NHL lockout began in September 2012, and ended in January 2013. In May of 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed a loan repayment bill that reduced payments for 2014 and 2015 by $500,000, and forgave the rest of the loan. The money for the forgiven loan payments is to go to arena improvements.
The National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), rebranded in 2021 as the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), was formed in 2015. In 2018 they announced that an independent team, the Minnesota Whitecaps, would join the league. The Minnesota Whitecaps were the fifth team added to the league; as of the 2021-2022 season, there were six teams in the league. The PHF was discontinued in June 2023. A few months later, in August 2023, a new organization formed: the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL). Minnesota will be home to one of the first six teams in the league. League play is expected to begin in January 2024.
State financial assistance for the St. Paul hockey arena was discussed by the 1997-1998 Minnesota Legislature. The initial hearings were on HF1176/ SF834. The final decision was passed as part of the Omnibus Bonding Bill, Laws of Minnesota 1998, chapter 404, sections 81-82.
The initial debt relief bills that were introduced in 2007 were SF557/HF860 and SF558/HF859. The loan forgiveness on the interest-free state loan for the arena itself would have been worth approximately $42.7 million. An additional $55.8 million was also requested to pay off the RiverCentre and parking ramp bonds. Much smaller amounts were passed by the Legislature and were included in Laws of Minnesota 2007, chapter 135, article 1, section 3 (z) but this section was line item vetoed by the Governor. The Legislature also passed HF2268. Article 15, section 21 included grant funds related to debt service costs. The entire bill was vetoed by the Governor.
In 2008, additional loan repayment bills were introduced in SF2705/ HF2948. A $2,500,000 grant was included in HF1812, Article 5, Section 53 (z), but it was line item vetoed by Governor Pawlenty. The passage of the Laws of Minnesota 2008, chapter 366, article 5, section 36 enabled the city to continue the tax increment financing district around the arena.
In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature passed a loan repayment provision as part of omnibus bill HF729 that reduced payments for 2014 and 2015 by $500,000, and forgave the rest of the loan ("No repayments are required from the city of St. Paul from fiscal years 2016 through 2021.") The money for the forgiven loan payments is to go to arena improvements.
Significant Books and Reports
Economic and Fiscal Impacts Analysis Related to the Location of a National Hockey League Franchise in St. Paul: Final Report. St. Petersburg, FL: KPMG Peat Marwick, 1996. (GV848.4.U6 E36 1996)
Loan Agreement for the Saint Paul Arena Project. n.p.,1998. (GV416 .S3 L63 1998) (Required by Laws of Minnesota 1998, chapter 404, section 23, subdivision 6.)
McCormack, Patrick J., and Randal S. Hove. Hockey Issue Questions & Answers. St. Paul: Minnesota Senate, Office of Senate Counsel & Research, 1998. (GV416.S3 M33 1998)
Minnesota Stadium and Arena History. Saint Paul, Minnesota: House Research Department, 2010. (GV415 .M56 2010)
Public Disclosure of Information Related to the Construction of a New Civic Center Arena in St. Paul. St. Paul: Minnesota Wild, 1998. (GV416 .P83 1998)
Progress Report to the Legislature: Studying the Viability of Joint Governance of the Xcel Energy Center and the Target Center. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Department of Administration, . (GV417.T95 P76 2014)
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Van Oot, Torey. "Wild Officials Pitch Lawmakers on $300 Million Renovation of Xcel Energy Center." Axios Twin Cities, November 29, 2023.
Callaghan, Peter. "Minnesota Wild Taps Former State Budget Director as Lobbyist. Is a Public Ask for Xcel Energy Center Renovations Next?" MinnPost, November 14, 2023.
Mizutani, Dane. "The AHL canceled its season Monday. What's next for NHL?" Pioneer Press, May 12, 2020.
"NHL suspends season amid coronavirus concerns." Minnesota Public Radio, March 12, 2020.
Tieberg, Alex. "The rise and fall of the Minnesota North Stars." MinnPost/MNopedia, January 13, 2020.
Blount, Rachel. "Professional women's hockey coming to Minnesota: Whitecaps named NWHL expansion team." Star Tribune, May 16, 2018.
Stoever, Liz. "Commerce group hears economic impacts of lockouts." Session Daily, St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Office, January 23, 2013.
Havens, Chris. "St. Paul: Downtown - Making RiverCentre area the place to be - St. Paul was turned down last year in its bid for debt relief on the RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Arena. It's going back to the Legislature again, this time with a new pitch: A new entertainment district." Star Tribune, January 24, 2008, p. 1B.
Medcalf, Myron P., and Curt Brown. "Xcel Center Debt Relief Sought." Star Tribune, February 7, 2007, p. A1, A7.
Egan, Mary Ellen. "Wild Economics (Hockey Team Values)." Forbes, December 8, 2003, p. 94-98.
Rybin, Virginia. "St. Paul's New Arena is Tale of Survival." St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 27, 2000, p. 1A. (Includes a timeline leading up to the opening of the Xcel Energy Center arena. See also: Vertical File S148.10)
Brown, Curt. "On 5-1 Vote, St. Paul's Council Approves Arena Lease with the Wild." Star Tribune, January 14, 1999, p. 7B.
Laszewski, Charles. "City Council Gives Its OK on Modified Arena Lease." St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 14, 1999, p. 1D.
Rybin, Virginia, and Charles Laszewski. "Hockey Arena Deal Revised." St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 16, 1998, p. 1A, 6A.
Rybin, Virginia. "Picture Clears After Wild Rush to Make Hockey Deal." St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 11, 1998, p. 1A, 6A-7A.
Weiner, Jay. "Best Deal in Town? Wild's Arena Lease." Star Tribune, April 6, 1998, p. A1, A10.
"The How and Why of Hockey in St. Paul." St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 18, 1997, p. 11A.
Olson, Gary. "NHL Expansion History." St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 18, 1997, p. 11D.
Additional Library Resources
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
S148.10 (Sports-Hockey), S150 (Stadiums)
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use this Library catalog search: