I feel like we don’t talk about Neal Broten enough.
As a Minnesotan whose parents were huge North Stars fans and told her the story of the 1980 US men’s Olympic hockey team at bedtime, I would choose Neal Broten as my favorite NHL player of all time. I would also argue that he is the greatest hockey player to have come from Minnesota and he definitely shouldn’t be kept off a list of the greatest NHL players. But let me explain why.
I’m not going to wax poetic about the glory of the Miracle on Ice, because my emotions about those magnificent shenanigans surely deserve their own post and others have done a better job anyway. Therefore, I’ll just say that Neal Broten was a member of that team and move on to the other hallmarks of his storied career.
Broten spent his high school career playing for the Rams of Roseau, MN (a hockey-crazy town even by Minnesota standards), appearing in three state tournaments with the team. He holds a Roseau record for recording four assists in a single period. A. SINGLE. PERIOD. WHAT.
Like a good Minnesotan boy, Broten went on to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers after high school. In his freshman season, Broten helped Herb Brooks and the Gophers defeat UND to win the 1979 NCAA hockey championship (Broten with the game-winning goal, thank you very much) and was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year.
(Side note: I miss the old WCHA. The Big Ten conference is great for football, but I miss the Gophers playing like UND and UMD and Denver all the time.)
After his stint at the 1980 Olympics (glory of glories), Broten returned to the Gophers and won the inaugural Hobey Baker Award (given to the top college hockey player) in 1981. What a baller.
Continuing his streak as Minnesota’s Golden Boy, after finishing his collegiate career with the Gophers, Broten went on to play for the Minnesota North Stars. He made two NHL All-Star appearances and became the first American to score more than 100 points in a season.
Broten and the North Stars made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1990-91 season, but ultimately lost to Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fun fact: I was at Game 3 in the womb a week before I was born. I like to think I was cheering in there, although that probably wasn’t very fun for my mom.
Broten followed the North Stars to Dallas (moment of silence) and was eventually traded to the New Jersey Devils, with whom he finally got his name on the Stanley Cup in 1995. Of course, he had the Cup-clinching goal in Game 4, because Neal Broten. He was the first American player to do so.
Broten played a little bit for the Kings before retiring back home with the Stars, amassing 923 points in 1,099 NHL games. Like you do.
So, Neal Broten - an amazing player, no? The Hobey Baker, an NCAA championship, an Olympic gold medal, and his name on the Stanley Cup. Every Minnesotan’s hockey wet dream.
BUT. One of my favorite things about this guy?
He dropped the gloves against Gretsky in one of 3 fights in the Great One’s career.
It’s very strange. When we moved to Dallas, I remember filling out a lineup card for a preseason game. It was Dallas vs. Tampa Bay, and I had to stop right there because I thought I was working in the NFL.
Bob Gainey, former coach and general manager of the Minnesota North Stars.
J.P. met Donna when she was honored as the North Stars’ two millionth fan in 1971. She and her sister won a road trip with the team, and she met her future husband at a restaurant in Boston. They married in 1972 and had sons Zach and Jordan who, like his brother, played college hockey at North Dakota.