Following the departure of the Minnesota North Stars after the 1993 season, the state of Minnesota was without an NHL team for seven seasons. Mayor Norm Coleman began a campaign to either recruit the relocation of an existing franchise to St. Paul or the award of an expansion franchise to a Minnesota-based ownership group. These efforts came close to success in the mid-1990s when Minnesota interests purchased the original Winnipeg Jets with the intention of relocating the franchise to Minnesota, however, arena negotiations fell through and the Jets instead relocated to Phoenix, Arizona.

Shortly after the failed attempt to relocate the Jets, the NHL announced its intention to expand from 26 to 30 teams. Bob Naegele, Jr. became the lead investor for an application to the NHL for an expansion franchise and ultimately the first majority owner. On June 25, 1997, the NHL announced that Minnesota had been awarded an expansion franchise, to begin play in the 2000 – 2001 season. The six finalist team names for the new NHL franchise (Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Wild), were announced on November 20, 1997. Jac Sperling was named Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota team, Doug Risebrough was named General Manager, Tod Leiweke was named President, and Martha Fuller was named Chief Financial Officer.