MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It was another crazy year in Minnesota sports, filled with division titles, playoff runs and coaching dismissals.
The Minnesota Vikings, Twins, Wild and Timberwolves are still seeking the state’s first major sports championship since the 1991 World Series. The last Minnesota champion was the Lynx of the WNBA in 2017.
In no particular order, here are some of the top sports stories from 2023:
The Minnesota Twins finally broke one of the longest playoff droughts in local sports in 2023. The Twins won their third AL Central title in five seasons under Rocco Baldelli, and behind Pablo Lopez, Sonny Gray and Carlos Correa, they beat the Toronto Blue Jays in a best-of-three playoff series at Target Field.
Their Game 1 win over the Blue Jays was their first playoff win in 19 years. The series win was their first 21 years.
Kevin O’Connell’s first season with the Vikings was full of wins and dramatic moments. The Vikings went 13-4, won the NFC North for the first time in five seasons and were 11-0 in one-score games. It ended in a Wild Card weekend loss to the New York Giants. Year two has been much different, with Justin Jefferson missing seven games and Kirk Cousins tearing his Achilles, and the season likely ending Sunday at Detroit without a trip to the playoffs.
TIMBERWOLVES WIN FIRST PLAYOFF SERIES IN 19 YEARS
For the first time in 19 years, the Timberwolves won a playoff series. They got there despite Karl-Anthony Towns missing most of the season with a calf injury, Jaden McDaniels missing the playoffs with a broken hand and Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson getting into a fight near the end of the season. But the Timberwolves beat the L.A. Clippers in a play-in series at Target Center. They eventually lost to the NBA champion Denver Nuggets, but even it was brief, fans got a taste of what it’s like to win in the playoffs again.
Fast forward, and the Timberwolves are currently the No. 1 team in the Western Conference at 24-9.
Lindsay Whalen will go down as one of the best basketball players ever in Minnesota. For whatever the reason, it did not translate to the bench. Whalen stepped down as Gophers’ women’s basketball coach in March after five seasons. Minnesota went 11-19 and 4-14 in the Big Ten last season. Whalen went 71-76, including a 31-58 mark in the Big Ten. She originally was going to stay in the department as a special assistant to Mark Coyle, but later changed course and took a $300,000 termination fee.
Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin fired coach Dean Evason in November after the team got off to a 5-10-4 start. Guerin hired John Hynes to replace Evason and the Wild has gone 11-5 since to get back in the Western Conference playoff conversation. Evason was with the Wild for four-plus seasons and won 147 games, but never got Minnesota out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Wild had 2-1 leads in each of the past two seasons, and lost both series.
Minnesota United FC fired coach Adrian Heath in October after seven seasons with the Loons. Minnesota United had lost seven straight matches and was 12th in the Western Conference when technical director Mark Watson announced the move. The Loons finished the season 10-13-11, and their 41 points was 11th in the West. They did not defend their home turf in 2023, going just 4-4-9 at Allianz Field.
In 2019, Heath led Minnesota United to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup and their first MLS Cup Playoff appearance. The Loons got to the Western Conference Finals in 2020. Heath was 91-101-56 in seven seasons, which included four playoff appearances.
Floyd of Rosedale is finally back in Minnesota, and P.J. Fleck got his first win over Kirk Ferentz in seven tries. The Gophers beat Iowa 12-10, their first win at Kinnick Stadium since 1999 and first win in the series since 2014.
It came with some controversy, after Cooper DeJean’s go-ahead punt return for a touchdown late in regulation came back due to an invalid fair catch signal. For the Gophers, it was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult season. Minnesota finished the regular season 5-7, and got to six wins after beating Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl.