A Worthy Honor – Minnesota Hockey Magazine

The Wild will retire Mikko Koivu’s number 9 before their game against the Nashville Predators on Sunday, marking the first jersey retirement for a player in the franchise’s 22 seasons. It’s the second number retired from circulation – the first being No. 1, which was raised to the rafters ahead of the Wild’s first-ever home game to honor a fan base that had lost its former NHL team to Dallas.

Mikko Koivu, seen here in a September 29, 2019 preseason game against the Winnipeg Jets, will have his number 9 retired in a pregame ceremony ahead of the Wild’s March 13 game against the Predators of Nashville. (MH Photo/Rick Olson)

That franchise, the North Stars, retired two numbers in the 26 seasons they were based in Minnesota. The first was Bill Masterton’s number 19. The number was only assigned once (briefly to Chuck Arnason in 1978, according to Hockey Reference) after Masterton suffered what turned out to be a fatal head injury in the North Stars’ first season. in 1967-68. The retirement of the official shirt did not take place until 19 years later.

The other player had to wait more than 15 years before being honored. That’s quite a difference from Koivu, whose last game with the Wild was in August 2020 at the NHL Qualifying Tournament in the Edmonton bubble. Koivu was a solid defensive center in his 15 seasons with the Wild, but he was never considered flashy.

That was not the case for right-winger Bill Goldsworthy, whose number 8 was placed in the rafters at the Met Center on February 15, 1992, after seven other players wore it. This makes Goldsworthy the last player on a Minnesota NHL team to be considered worthy of one of the ultimate honors in sports.

“I remember how emotional he was” when he found out they were going to retire his number, said Bill’s son Sean, who now coaches the school’s hockey team. Minnetonka Boys’ High School. “From those old days of tough love and being stoic. I had very rarely seen him in tears, but I remember him saying to me, ‘Nothing can make me more proud to be a part of this. than to feel like I was so important to the franchise.”

Indeed, he was.

Cover of the game program for Goldsworthy’s number retirement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Vintage Minnesota Hockey)

Goldsworthy was the first star player in North Stars history, both because of his goal scoring ability and the way he celebrated them. Goldsworthy scored just six goals in three seasons in 33 games with the Boston Bruins before being taken away by the expansion North Stars as the NHL went from six to 12 teams in 1967. He scored 14 goals in each of his first two seasons at Minnesota, but then took off in his third year. He scored 36 goals in 75 games in 1969-70 and followed with goal tallies of 34, 31, 27, 48, 37 and 24.

Goldsworthy combined his goal-scoring ability with a celebration in which he lifted his left leg and pumped his right arm. “I don’t know exactly when it started,” said Lou Nanne, who was Goldsworthy’s teammate for more than nine seasons at Minnesota. “He really started doing it in the second year. Then people started talking about it.

The “Goldy Shuffle” was unique because hockey celebrations weren’t the norm in the late 1960s. While the Met Center crowd was at first confused about the shuffle, they quickly began to flock to it. expect. “He was a really charismatic hockey player,” Nanne said. “He’s the kind of player you liked to have on your team because you knew he was going to sell tickets for you.”

Tom Reid, who also played with Goldsworthy on the North Stars, remembers him for his goalscoring ability and also for his quick temper. The statistics support both things. Goldsworthy scored 267 goals in 670 games for the North Stars and racked up 711 penalty minutes, including 110, in 1968-69. Goldsworthy still ranks sixth in all-time goals in the Minnesota/Dallas franchise record books.

“He had his eye on the back of the net,” said Reid, now the Wild radio analyst. “Bill had a terrific wrist shot and quick release. But he was one of those guys who could hurry if something was to happen.

As?

The banners of Bill Goldworthy and Bill Masterton hang above the ice of the Met Center. (Photo courtesy of Vintage Minnesota Hockey)

“One game, Bill came off the ice,” Nanne recalls, “I was right there. There was half a minute left in the period and (Coach Wren) Blair was doing his usual antics yelling at Goldy. Goldy didn’t break his stride, approaching the bench and going full speed, he drilled Wren with a right. He dropped it with his glove. We all huddled together (to break it). We go up to the locker room after period and Wren says to Bill, “Come into my office and we’ll finish this.” As soon as Bill walked in, Wren said, “Sit down. He knew Goldy would have killed him.

Because it was hockey in the late 1960s, Goldsworthy was not only suspended for punching his coach and general manager, but he ended up starting the next period after initially thinking Blair the had benched. “Wren had told Goldy to sit on the bench,” to start the period, “so Goldy didn’t come out on the ice,” Nanne said. “The ref said, ‘Wren, get somebody here. Goldy came out and the crowd started cheering.

Goldsworthy, who added 18 goals and 37 points in 40 playoff games with the North Stars, was traded to the New York Rangers in November 1976 after appearing in 16 games that season. He played two seasons in New York before ending his World Hockey Association career with Indianapolis and then Edmonton in 1978-79.

Goldsworthy would later work for the North Stars before joining the San Jose Sharks as a scout. He also held coaching positions in the minor leagues. But probably the moment Goldsworthy is most proud of in hockey came the night his jersey was retired.

“All this weekend, I remember watching him deal with things emotionally and break down backstage several times,” said Sean Goldsworthy, who was then in his twenties. “He needed moments to digest the intensity of the emotions. Take the franchise from expansion to legitimacy. Get out of the Original Six (with Boston) and gain respect in the league. Those years were pivotal for Minnesota and the NHL. … Seeing these players recommit to their relationships and brotherhood (was special).

Bill Goldworthy, holding his banner, waves to cheers from North Stars fans during his February 15, 1992 number retirement ceremony at the Met Center. (Photo courtesy of Vintage Minnesota Hockey)

Sadly, Goldsworthy died in 1996 at the age of 51 after battling AIDS. Goldsworthy, who had struggled with alcoholism at various times in his life, discussed the situation with the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1995. “There was a period of three to five years after my divorce when I was really in the bottle and I was I don’t mind my sex,” he told the newspaper. “And there were a few times I was a scout for San Jose, after I started drinking again , I didn’t pay as much attention to sex as I should have.”

Goldsworthy’s friends and the hockey community rallied behind him. Reid recalled a fundraiser for Goldsworthy that was held in the Twin Cities and included “everyone who was anybody in hockey in that area.”

Goldsworthy wasn’t the last former North Stars great to have his jersey retired. Neal Broten’s No. 7 was retired by the Dallas Stars in February 1998 and Mike Modano’s No. 9 in March 2014. Modano, of course, only played a few seasons in Minnesota before becoming a dominant player in Dallas .

In an elegant move, the Stars franchise paid for members of the Goldsworthy and Masterton families to be in Dallas for Modano’s jersey retirement. It was there that Sean had a meaningful conversation with Broten, who had grown up in Roseau, Minnesota watching Bill play for the North Stars.

(Photo courtesy of Vintage Minnesota Hockey)

“Neal told me how much he thought of my dad and I gave it back to Neal,” Sean said. “I said to him, ‘My dad taught me hockey by watching you.’ Seeing Neal emotionally accepting that gratitude was really cool.

As for what playing with the North Stars meant to Bill Goldsworthy, Sean has no trouble remembering his father’s words.

“I remember him saying, ‘There’s nothing more special than playing in Minnesota,’ Sean said. “It was so dear to his heart and nothing meant more to him professionally than to have his jersey retired by the Minnesota North Stars. Thinking back to JP Parise, Tom Reid and Lou Nanne who became surrogate fathers to me when my father died. They had a brotherhood unmatched even in today’s game. They raised their families together and played together for a decade. To be recognized by the frankness in which he put all his heart and that he loved, he finally felt at peace.