Sports in Minnesota

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Sports in Minnesota include professional teams in all major sports, Olympic Games contenders and medalists, especially in the Winter Olympics, collegiate teams in major and small-school conferences and associations and active amateur teams and individual sports. The State of Minnesota has a team in all four major professional leagues (Major League Baseball [MLB], National Football League [NFL], National Basketball Association [NBA] and National Hockey League [NHL]), and the University of Minnesota is part of the oldest major college conference still running (the Big Ten).

Major professional sports


Twins catcher Joe Mauer at bat, Metrodome.

The Minnesota Twins are an MLB team that moved to Minnesota in 1961 from Washington D.C.,[1] where they were known as the Washington Senators. The Twins played their home games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington from 1961 to 1981 and the Metrodome in Minneapolis from 1982 to 2009, moving to their current stadium, Target Field, in 2010. They have been to the World Series in 1965, 1987 and 1991, winning in 1987 and 1991. In 2001, the Twins and the Montreal Expos were threatened with closure in a contraction scheme of the Commissioner of Baseball.[2] That effort was unsuccessful, and the next year the team made it to the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Notable current and former Twins include Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Paul Molitor, Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, Joe Nathan, David Ortiz and Kent Hrbek. There was a Major League Baseball team based in St Paul called the St Paul Saints, but they moved to Chicago to become the Chicago White Sox

The current St. Paul Saints are an American Association team. The team used to be part of the Northern League. The team was founded in 1993 as an inaugural team in the league. They won the Northern League Championship in 1993, 1995, 1996, and in 2004.[3] Notable current and former players include Kevin Millar, Darryl Strawberry, Jason Varitek, Jack Morris, and Ila Borders. The Saints play their home games at Midway Stadium in St. Paul and are not affiliated with Major League Baseball. They moved to downtown St Paul in time for the 2015 season, to start play at the new CHS Field.


The Minnesota Timberwolves are an NBA team founded in 1989[4] and play their home games at Target Center in Minneapolis. The "Wolves", as they are called by fans, have yet to appear in an NBA Finals series, but made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. In 2000, NBA officials ruled that the Wolves violated league rules when signing then-free agent Joe Smith. They then declared the contract was henceforth invalid, fined the organization $3.5 million and took the team's next three first-round draft picks.[5] Notable current and former players include Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Sam Cassell, Ricky Rubio, Stephon Marbury, Latrell Sprewell, Terry Porter, Sam Mitchell, Wally Szczerbiak, Malik Sealy and Andrew Wiggins.

The Minnesota Lynx are a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) team founded in 1999 and, like the Timberwolves, play their home games at Target Center in Minneapolis. The Lynx have won three WNBA Championships, doing so during the 2011, the 2013 season and the 2015 WNBA Season.[6] In 2005, the Lynx drafted Seimone Augustus from Louisiana State University. She quickly became the foundation of the franchise and has been the focus of many WNBA advertisements. Maya Moore, drafted first overall in 2011, has contributed in great part to the Lynx's success, winning an MVP award in 2014.

The Minneapolis Lakers were an NBA team that was moved from Detroit to Minneapolis in 1947.[7] During their stay in Minneapolis, the Lakers won the 1947–48 National Basketball League (NBL) championship, then joined four other NBL teams in joining the Basketball Association of America (BAA), where they won the 1948–49 BAA championship. After the 1948–49 season, the NBL and the BAA merged to become the NBA. The Lakers then won five championships in six years, in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954.[8] They are considered to be the NBA's first "dynasty". Notable players include George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, Slater Martin, Clyde Lovellette and Elgin Baylor. In 1960, the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, where they became the Los Angeles Lakers.


Vikings in action January 2009

The Minnesota Vikings are an NFL team founded as an expansion team in 1961. They play their home games at TCF Bank Stadium while their future venue, U.S. Bank Stadium, is being constructed. The Vikings have won one NFL Championship in 1969, one year before the AFL–NFL Merger. The Vikings were the first team to appear in four Super Bowls, but also lost all of them. Their last appearance in the Super Bowl was Super Bowl XI against the Oakland Raiders in 1977. Notable current and former players include Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jim Marshall, Ron Yary, Mick Tingelhoff, Paul Krause, Cris Carter, Carl Eller, Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper, Darren Sharper, Jim Kleinsasser, Brad Johnson, Alan Page, the "Purple People Eaters", Adrian Peterson, Randall McDaniel, John Randle and Brett Favre.

Before the Vikings, Minnesota also hosted the Minneapolis Marines/Red Jackets and the Duluth Kelleys/Eskimos. Three players who played for Duluth are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Duluth teams played at Athletic Park, while the Minneapolis teams played at Nicollet Park. In 2014, the Bemidji Axemen of Bemidji played two seasons as a team in the Indoor Football League.

The Minnesota Vixen are a Women's Professional Football League (WPFL) founded in 1998. They have not appeared in the WPFL Championship, and they are the oldest professional women's football team in the U.S.


The Minnesota Wild are an NHL team founded in 2000 and play their home games at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. The Wild have not appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals. With their second draft pick in franchise history, the Wild drafted Mikko Koivu, who now holds the team's record total franchise points and is team captain. The Wild made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2003, by beating the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks both in seven games after being down three games to one in the series, before being swept by the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Notable Wild players include Marián Gáborík, Mikko Koivu, Wes Walz, Darby Hendrickson, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Thomas Vanek and Jordan Leopold.

The Minnesota North Stars were an NHL team that was part of the 1967 NHL Expansion and played their home games at Met Center in Bloomington. They appeared in the 1981 and 1991 Stanley Cup Finals, but did not win either one of them. In 1993, the North Stars moved to Dallas, where they became the Dallas Stars. Notable players include Harry Howell, John Mariucci, Gump Worsley, Neal Broten and Mike Modano.

The Minnesota Whitecaps are an all women's team that played in the Western Women's Hockey League but is now independent and has played exhibition games with the National Women's Hockey League in the 2015–16 season.

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Eveleth, on the Iron Range.

Table of professional teams

Current teams

Club Sport League Home Venue Championships
Minnesota Twins Baseball Major League Baseball Target Field World Series: 1987, 1991
Minnesota Vikings American football National Football League TCF Bank Stadium NFL Championship: 1969
Minnesota Timberwolves Basketball National Basketball Association Target Center
Minnesota Wild Ice hockey National Hockey League Xcel Energy Center
Minnesota Lynx Basketball WNBA Target Center WNBA: 2011, 2013, 2015
Minnesota Vixen Women's American football IWFL Simley Athletic Field[9]
Minnesota Machine Women's American football Women's Football Alliance Minnetonka High School
St. Paul Saints Baseball American Association CHS Field Northern League: 1993, 1995, 1996, 2004
Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks Baseball American Association Newman Outdoor Field Northern League: 1998, 2003, 2006, 2009
Minnesota United FC Soccer North American Soccer League National Sports Center NASL: 2011, 2014
Minnesota Wind Chill Ultimate Frisbee American Ultimate Disc League James Griffin Stadium

Former Minnesota teams

Club Sport League Home Venue Championships
Bemidji Axemen (defunct) Indoor football Indoor Football League Sanford Center
Duluth Kelleys/Eskimos (defunct) Football National Football League Athletic Park
Duluth-Superior Lumberjacks Arena football Indoor Football League
Minneapolis Millers (defunct) Baseball American Association Nicollet Park, Metropolitan Stadium 1896, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1915, 1932, 1935, 1955, 1958, 1959
Minnesota Muskies (relocated to Miami Floridians) Basketball ABA Met Center
Minnesota Pipers (returned to Pittsburgh Pipers) Basketball ABA Met Center
Minnesota Purple Rage Arena football Indoor Football League
Minnesota Ripknees (defunct) Basketball ABA Gangelhoff Center
Minneapolis Marines/Red Jackets (defunct) Football National Football League Nicollet Park
Minnesota Kicks (defunct) Soccer NASL (defunct) Metropolitan Stadium
Minnesota Strikers (defunct) Soccer NASL (defunct) Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Minnesota Thunder (defunct) Soccer USL First Division, USL A-League (defunct) National Sports Center, James Griffin Stadium 1999
Minnesota Lightning (defunct) Soccer USL W-League National Sports Center
Minnesota Monarchs (defunct) Volleyball Augsburg College
Minnesota Fighting Pike (defunct) Arena football Arena Football League Target Center
Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers) Basketball NBA / Basketball Association of America Minneapolis Auditorium / Minneapolis Armory 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954
Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) Ice hockey National Hockey League Met Center
Minnesota Moose (now the St. John's IceCaps) Ice hockey International Hockey League St. Paul Civic Center
Minnesota Swarm (now the Georgia Swarm) Indoor lacrosse National Lacrosse League Xcel Energy Center

Other professional and semi-pro sports

Association football (soccer)

The Minnesota United FC were founded in 2010 as a replacement for the Minnesota Thunder, which folded after the 2009 season. United originally planned to play in a new incarnation of the North American Soccer League, but due to conflicts between NASL and the United Soccer Leagues, NASL did not launch until 2011. The United States Soccer Federation stepped in and sanctioned a temporary league for the 2010 season, the USSF Division 2 Professional League, featuring teams from both organizations. United play their home games at the National Sports Center in Blaine, where the Thunder previously played.

The Minnesota TwinStars FC are a team that plays in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). They were founded in 1997, and play their home games at Cooper High School in Robbinsdale.

Formed in 1953, the Minnesota Amateur Soccer League is one of several adult amateur soccer leagues in the state. MASL is considered the top sanctioned adult league, which features four divisions using the promotion-relegation system.

The Thunder were a USL First Division team founded in 1992 as an amateur men's team, then joined the USL in 1994, and won the championship of what was then the A-League in 1999.[10] Notable former players include Tony Sanneh and Manuel Lagos.

The Minnesota Lightning were a W-League team founded in 2006. They also played at the National Sports Center. The team folded after the 2009 season.


Bandy has been played on a regular basis in the United States since the early 1980s and the game is most popular in Minnesota, where the winter climate makes it possible to play outdoors for many months a year.

Most games in the American Bandy League are played at the Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval and most of the national champions are teams from the state, like Minneapolis Bandolier, Dynamo Duluth, Minnesota Blades, and Sirius Minnesota. The Bandolier are the most successful team in the United States, having been crowned United States champions ten times as of 2014.[11][12]

Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval was also the main venue of the 1995 Bandy World Championship and the 2006 Women's Bandy World Championship. It will also host the 2016 Women's Bandy World Championship.


The Minnesota Swarm were the state's professional lacrosse team from 2005 to 2015. All home games for the Minnesota Swarm were played at the Xcel Energy Center. The National Lacrosse League (NLL) awarded St. Paul the inactive Montreal Express franchise on August 10, 2004. After eleven seasons of mixed success playing in Minnesota,


Minnesota plays host to several professional golf events. The Champions Tour has an annual stop in Minnesota. What used to be the Burnett Senior Classic played at Bunker Hills is now the 3M Championship played at TPC Twin Cities. Minnesota was the host of the LPGA Classic from 1990–1998 at Edinburgh USA. The Nationwide Tour stops annually at Tom Lehman's Somerby Golf Club and Community.

Though Minnesota is not a stop on the men's PGA tour, the state has hosted several major events. The U.S. Open has been played in the state four times, twice at Hazeltine National Golf Club, in 1970 and 1991, once at Interlachen Country Club (1930) in Bobby Jones' historic win, and once at The Minikahda Club (1916). Hazeltine played host to the PGA Championship in 2002 and 2009, and The Ryder Cup will then visit Hazeltine in 2016. Keller Golf Course in St. Paul hosted the 1932 and 1954 PGA Championships, the 1949 Western Open, and the St. Paul Open from 1930-1968 (a regular PGA stop). Interlachen Country Club hosted the Solheim Cup in 2002 and the U.S. Women's Open in 2008.

Disc Golf

Disc golf courses in the Twin Cities play host to the Minnesota Majestic on the third weekend every June.[13] It is part of the Professional Disc Golf Association's National Tour, the top level of pro/am disc golf events in America.[14] The tournament has frequented Kaposia Park, Blue Ribbon Pines and Hyland Ski Area, among other courses. The 2010 Minnesota Majestic was the 23rd annual.

Ultimate Frisbee

The Minnesota Wind Chill[15] were founded in 2013 as an expansion team for the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). The team plays in the Midwestern Division of the AUDL. Home games are played on the campus of the University of St. Thomas.



There are two racetracks in Minnesota that hold NASCAR sanctioned events. Elko Speedway in Elko is a 3/8 mile paved oval, which has held NASCAR events for over twenty years. Raceway Park (Minnesota) in Shakopee is a 1/4 mile paved oval. NASCAR drivers from Minnesota include:


Milton in his car at Daytona Beach Road Course in 1920

Minnesota is known for being the home of the Brainerd International Raceway, which opened in 1963. It has hosted drag racing, road racing, and kart racing.[17] NHRA drivers from Minnesota include:

Open Wheel

Perhaps the most successful driver from Minnesota is Tommy Milton. Milton became the first driver to win two Indianapolis 500s with his wins in 1921 and 1923. Amazingly, Milton was completely blind in his right eye.[18] In 2007 Rochester's Leilani Munter became the fourth woman in history to compete in the Indy Pro Series, the development league of IndyCar.

The aforementioned Brainerd International Raceway also hosts a 3-mile road course, which held a USAC race in 1969 among other events.


Rally America, based out of Golden Valley, holds an annual event in the woodlands near Bemidji. Known as the Ojibwe Forests Rally, the event is held near the end of August each year. Rally America also holds events in Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Colorado. X-Games superstar, Travis Pastrana, is a regular in the series.

World of Outlaws

There is a yearly World of Outlaws (WoO) sprint car event held at Princeton Raceway. Known as the PolyDome Princeton Nationals, the event is most likely held at the track due to WoO driver, Craig Dollansky, being from nearby Elk River. The 1/4 mile track leads to some exciting, action-packed racing.


The state of Minnesota has 27 schools competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Minnesota is one of eleven US states that do not have a school listed as an National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) member,[19] though there are schools transitioning from the NAIA to the NCAA.

Division I

runners nearly colliding as they round a bend, as observers look on
Minnesota state Cross-country meet

The Minnesota Golden Gophers compete in NCAA Division I as member of the Big Ten Conference for all sports including hockey. In women's hockey the school is a member of the NCAA's Division I Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Golden Gophers have won 24 total national collegiate championships, including 6 in football, 5 in men's hockey, 3 in baseball, 3 in women's hockey, 2 in men's basketball, 1 in men's golf, 1 in men's track and field, and 3 in men's wrestling.[20] The entire list of collegiate national championships can be found here. The Golden Gophers have also won 178 conference titles. A list of notable former Golden Gophers can be found at Minnesota Golden Gophers#Notable Gopher athletes and coaches.

Four other universities in Minnesota maintain NCAA Division I ice hockey programs, and all five field both men's and women's teams. The other four Division I schools (for ice hockey only) are Bemidji State University, the University of Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and St. Cloud State University. Bemidji State University and Minnesota State University, Mankato participate in the WCHA. The University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State University participate in the NCHC. Duluth has produced five Division I championships in women's ice hockey and one Division I championship in men's ice hockey.

Division II

The NCAA Division II teams in Minnesota are from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). There are 9 Division II classified schools for the 2007–2008 year.

The NSIC was founded in 1932 and joined the NCAA in 1992.[21] Teams competing in the NSIC are:[22]

Bemidji State, Minnesota–Duluth, Minnesota State–Mankato and St. Cloud State notably compete in Division I in men's and women's hockey, as members of the WCHA. Bemidji State University has won five NCAA Division II titles. Minnesota State–Mankato has produced three NCAA Division II titles, and the Minnesota–Duluth has produced two Division II titles in football. Winona State has won two NCAA Division II titles. Concordia St. Paul has won four NCAA Division II title in Volleyball. UM-Crookston, MSU-Moorhead, Southwest Minnesota State and St. Cloud State have not won any NCAA team titles.[23]

Division III

The NCAA Division III teams in Minnesota play in one of two leagues, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) or the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC).

Teams competing in the MIAC:[24]

The MIAC was founded in 1920.[25] Conference schools have won 30 total NCAA titles.[23] Among those titles are Augsburg's nine wrestling titles, and St. Thomas' eleven total titles.

Teams competing in the UMAC:[26]

The UMAC was founded in 1972.[27] The conference became an active NCAA Division III conference July 1, 2008. There are eight full members, seven from Minnesota. All seven Minnesota members are full Division III members.

Olympians from Minnesota

The United States hockey team won the Olympic gold medal for ice hockey in 1980, coached by Minnesota native Herb Brooks. Eleven of the twenty players on the roster were from Minnesota.[citation needed] The team beat the long-dominant Soviet team in what has been called the Miracle on Ice, and went on to win the gold medal by defeating Finland.

The 1960 United States hockey team won the Olympic gold medal in the 1960 Winter Olympics. Six of the 18 members of that team were from Minnesota.[citation needed] The team beat the Canadian ice hockey team in the final game to secure the gold medal. A substantial number of players on the 1956 Olympic silver medal hockey team came from Minnesota.[citation needed] The 1948 Winter Olympics had a native Thief River Falls, MN member on the team. The majority of players on the 1972 Olympic silver medal hockey team came from Minnesota.[28]

In the 2006 Winter Olympics, both the bronze medal U.S. men's and the women's curling teams came from the Bemidji Curling Club.

Bloomington native Tom Malchow won a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in swimming.

Carrie Tollefson was on the 2004 Summer Olympic team as a distance runner and ranked 5th in 2006.

Minnesota was well represented in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejiing,[29] including Sada Jacobson (Rochester, Minnesota) already had won the bronze medal in the 2004 Summer Olympic games in sabre fencing.

Amateur sports


Summer collegiate baseball is present in Minnesota with the SCBA-sanctioned Northwoods League. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate, and therefore are not paid. Minnesota's Northwoods League teams are the Alexandria Blue Anchors, Brainerd Blue Thunder, Duluth Huskies, Mankato Moondogs, Rochester Honkers, and St. Cloud River Bats. The Northwoods League Offices are located in Rochester, Minnesota. There are also Northwoods League teams operating in Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks are an American Association team founded in 1996. They won five Northern League titles in 1998, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010 (the last year of the league).[30]

two yellow and one red curling stones on red, white and blue ice
Curling Stones

Other Minor League Baseball teams associated with Minnesota include the Rochester Red Wings (AAA), the New Britain Rock Cats (AA), the Fort Myers Miracles (High-A), the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Low-A), the Elizabethton Twins (Rookie), the DSL Twins[31] of the Dominican Summer League, and GCL Twins of the Gulf Coast League, all sponsored by the Minnesota Twins.

American Legion baseball is played throughout the state in summer.


Minnesota has more golfers per capita than any state in the U.S.[32] Hazeltine National Golf Club played host to the 2006 U.S. Amateur.[33]


In addition to the Bemidji Curling Club whose members competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, there are over two dozen curling clubs in the state.

Roller derby

The Twin Cities is home to the Minnesota RollerGirls (Saint Paul), North Star Roller Girls (Minneapolis) and Minnesota Men's Roller Derby (MMRD), as well as two junior derby leagues, Twin Cities Junior Roller Derby (TCJRD) and NorthEast Roller Derby Youth (NERDY).

The Minnesota RollerGirls were founded in 2004, and were the fourth flat-track league to host a bout. Their venue for the first season was a roller rink in a northern Minneapolis suburb. After selling out all four bouts in their first season, they were approached by the City of Saint Paul, which connected them with the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, part of the RiverCentre Complex, making them the first modern roller derby league to play in a professional sports venue, and their first sellout set the modern roller derby attendance record of 4,900 (which was beaten the next month by the Rat City Rollergirls of Seattle, who had recently begun playing in the 15,000-seat KeyArena). The Minnesota RollerGirls are founding members of the Women's Flat-Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the main governing body for flat track roller derby, and have advanced to the WFTDA Championships in 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

The North Star Roller Girls were founded in 2006, and played in a roller rink for two seasons before moving to the Minneapolis Convention Center. They joined the WFTDA in 2009, and competed in the North Central Regional Tournament in 2009 and 2010.

MMRD and the junior leagues play in various venues around the Twin Cities.


Every year in summer (generally in July) at Blaine's National Sports Center the Schwan’s USA CUP is played. It is the largest international youth soccer tournament in North America with over 1,000 teams and participants from 22 countries.[34][35]


Bandy in USA is almost exclusively a Minnesota sport.[36][37] All league matches are played on the largest artificial ice surface of the Western Hemisphere, Guidant John Rose Minnesota Oval in Roseville, venue of the Bandy World Championship 1995 and the Bandy World Championship for women 2006, even by the team from Duluth. Also rink bandy competitions are organized. The United States national bandy team is typically the 6th or the 7th best team in the world, thus often having finished either last in Group A or winning Group B of the Bandy World Championship. At the 2012 tournament they were praised for being better than ever before. However, it was not enough to avoid being relegated to Group B. With an increasing number of participating countries, from the 2014 tournament there are 8 countries in Group A, almost securing USA a permanent place for the foreseeable future.


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  35. About Us
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External links