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Saturday, May 17

Updated: May 20, 8:34 AM ET

One Cinderella had to go down

By Lindsay Berra
ESPN The Magazine

The problem with Cinderella stories is that there can only be one Cinderella.

All the breaks were on one side. For the first two series, I said it was our year because we got the breaks. But I have to say it's their year too because they had the breaks.
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire

The fairy tale was being acted out perfectly. The sixth-seeded Wild, in just their third year of NHL existence, rallied back from a 3-1 series deficit to upset the Colorado Avalanche. Then, they did it again -- another 3-1 deficit, another comeback, another series victory -- this time against the Vancouver Canucks.

But when the Minnesota Wild ran into the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, it was obvious that the glass slippers belonged on the feet of the Ducks -- most noticeably the feet of goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who gave up only one goal to the Wild in the four-game series.

"All the breaks were on one side," said Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. "For the first two series, I said it was our year because we got the breaks. But I have to say it's their year too because they had the breaks."

The Wild's first season was just three years ago. The quickest route an expansion hockey club has ever taken to a Stanley Cup is seven years -- the Philadelphia Flyers won their first in 1974 after entering the league for the 1967-68 season. But the Flyers had Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent. The Wild had Jim Dowd and Dwayne Roloson, and in spite of their recent success, half of the hockey world likely still doesn't recognize their names. They were a team of castoffs picked in the expansion and entry drafts, a team that won just 26 games last year, a team that no one believed would have a winning record, let alone a playoff berth.

Except, of course, Wild general manager Doug Risebrough, head coach Jacques Lemaire, and the city of St. Paul, Minn. In Lemaire's hands, this rag-tag bunch of journeymen and kids started winning hockey games. No superstars, no flash, no player more important than another.

But the hockey world didn't notice.

"No one believed in any of us," said Dowd. "That's why a lot of us ended up here."

"We weren't supposed to win one game," said Lemaire.

"Nobody thought we had the talent," said center Cliff Ronning.

But, for at least the first two series of the playoffs, the Wild got by on heart. They got 42 goals from 13 different players. Their goaltenders, Roloson and Manny Fernandez, formed a successful playoff goaltending tandem, going 5-6 and 3-4 respectively.

"This team has more character than any team I've ever played with, and that's saying a lot," said Wild captain Brad Bombardir. "The guys never give up. We're a great team, and we're proud to be the kind of team that we are."

They'll be that kind of team next year, too. And lucky for them, Cinderella stories never get old.

Lindsay Berra is a writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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