Bob Naegele, who brought the NHL back to MN, dies

Bob Naegele never seemed to get the credit he deserved in the state of hockey. He brought the National Hockey League back to Minnesota, a distinction that politicians hijacked back in the ’90s, a few years after Norm Green spirited the North Stars to Dallas.

Naegele, a former Excelsior goaltender back in the day, died of cancer, the Minnesota Wild said Thursday. He was 78 years old.

Naegele’s group, Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, paid $80 million in 1997 and paid another $45 million toward building the Xcel Energy Center.

He did OK in the deal. In 2008, he sold the team for $250 million to current owner Craig Leipold.

You can make money and leave something tangible behind.

Asked by the Pioneer Press at the time about his legacy, Naegele said, “that we sowed good seed into the lives of others in the world of hockey, and in Minnesota. And the seeds took and grew.”

When the Wild made the playoffs, Naegele was given the distinction of shouting the traditional, “Let’s play hockey!”

“Bob Naegele was a dreamer, a dreamer with conviction,” Jac Sperling, another investor, said in a Wild press release today. “And the more challenging the dream, the better. As a dedicated Minnesota hockey fan, he dreamed of returning the NHL back to the State of Hockey, where it belonged, even in the face of many doubters. We are all grateful to the dreamer who made the return of the NHL possible, as will be future generations of the Minnesota hockey fans.”