WINNIPEG - Talk about making a splash in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The hockey world is still buzzing from Wednesday’s Twin Cities double-whammy, in which the Minnesota Wild threw a line in the NHL’s free-agent pond and snagged the two biggest fish — on the same lure.
As bland as they come during their first decade in the league, the Wild have suddenly gone all Big Apple, throwing nearly $200 million at two players, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, in an age of collective bargaining uncertainty.
But the kicker is Parise and Suter turned down bigger money elsewhere to go to Minnesota together, a fascinating development that bears a closer look.
Because if this can happen eight hours down the interstate, where the winters are just as cold and the mosquitoes just as big, a wistful Winnipegger could be forgiven for wondering if it could happen here.
After all, it’s not like the Wild are perennial Stanley Cup contenders. Heck, they haven’t even made the playoffs the last four years, playing some of the most boring hockey over that period.
Last year Minnesota was the least creative offensive team in hockey, scoring a league-low 166 goals.
So what was it that got Parise’s and Suter’s attention? It certainly wasn’t the nightlife on Hennepin Avenue.
It turns out Parise and Suter did their research on the Wild’s future, putting their heads together to look at the young talent on the roster and the prospects on their way up, and liked what they saw.
Parise, who’s from Minnesota, helped sell Suter on the lifestyle, which, again, isn’t that much different from Manitoba’s.
OK, the Twin Cities is about four times as big, so there’s plenty more to do, even when you get done with the Mall of America.
But we’re not talking New York, here. Or the beaches of Los Angeles and Anaheim. No mountain and ocean view like Vancouver.
And while the locals like to call it the State of Hockey, there are no Stanley Cup banners like there are in Hockeytown or in Pittsburgh, two cities that can attract star players on reputation, alone.
So perhaps this was just about one star wanting to go home, and seeing a chance to bring another with him to create something potentially very special.
The Winnipeg equivalent: Jonathan Toews, if he were a free agent, signing with the Jets and bringing Shea Weber with him. Or something like that.
So could Jets fans become the beneficiaries of a similar free-agent finagle?
For starters, the Jets are thin on talent, even thinner on blue-chip prospects. The process of stocking the shelves has only begun, the jury’s still out on the man in charge of it, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
There’s another factor just as important, if not more.
The Wild’s penchant for losing had turned fans off in Minnesota.
This was an 11-year-old jalopy that was leaking fluids, showing rust and making sounds it shouldn’t be.
The NHL had made a Wildly successful return to Minnesota following the move of the North Stars to Dallas, but the thrill only lasts so long before you want some bang for your buck, other than a mean backfire.
The signings of Parise and Suter represent a major engine rebuild, complete with body work and new paint.
The results were instantaneous: barely 24 hours after the news broke, fans had scooped up 1,000 new season tickets, worth millions to the team each year.
There is no such need to attract the paying public’s attention, here.
Season tickets are sold out for another two to four years, with a waiting list in the thousands.
We are Minnesota, 10 years ago. With much higher ticket prices.
So there may be $200 million in the Winnipeg kitty.
But there’s no reason to spend it.