Minnesota has long been known as the State of Hockey, and there's a good reason for it as the Stanley Cup Playoffs open up this week.
Not only are the Wild in the playoffs with a matchup looming against Minnesota's former team – the Dallas Stars – but there are all kinds of Minnesota connections in the postseason this year.
Let's start at the top, as 11 former Gophers are in the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup.
- Nick Bjugstad (2010-13) New York Rangers
- Alex Goligoski (2005-07) Dallas Stars
- Erik Haula (2010-13) Minnesota Wild
- Phil Kessel (2006) Pittsburgh Penguins
- Nick Leddy (2009-10) New York Islanders
- Paul Martin (2001-03) San Jose Sharks
- Kyle Okposo (2007-08) New York Islanders
- Nate Schmidt (2010-13) Washington Capitals
- Jordan Schroeder (2008-10) Minnesota Wild
- Brady Skjei (2012-15) New York Rangers
- Thomas Vanek (2002-04) Minnesota Wild
Meanwhile former Gopher Darby Hendrickson is an assistant for the Minnesota Wild, and Paul Holmgren is now the president of the Philadelphia Flyers.
In all there are many players who were born in Minnesota active for the playoffs and a few others with Minnesota connections.
But there's an impressive group playing for other teams as well.
Islanders forward Brock Nelson and Washington forward T.J. Oshie both played high school hockey for Warroad (though Oshie wasn't born in Minnesota). Edina native Anders Lee now plays alongside Nelson with the Islanders.
St. Paul defenseman Ryan McDonough had 34 points in 73 games for the Rangers, while Iron Ranger Matt Niskanen (5 goals, 27 assists) helps secure Washington's blue line, and there are others.
No matter how it plays out for the Wild, Minnesota will likely play a significant role in this year's Stanley Cup.