The Wild were founded on June 25, 1997, but did not start play until the 2000–01 season. The Wild was the first NHL franchise in Minnesota since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993. They lost their first game, 3–1, to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and recorded their first win against the Tampa Bay Lightning five games later. In the 2002–03 season, the team made their first Stanley Cup playoffs appearance, making a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals. Since then, the Wild have struggled in the postseason, having advanced to the second round only twice since 2003.
Following the departure of the Minnesota North Stars after the 1992–93 season, the state of Minnesota was without an NHL team for seven seasons. Saint Paul mayor (and future U.S. Senator) Norm Coleman began a campaign to either recruit the relocation of an existing franchise to the city 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 at the Target Center 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. Businessman and Minnetonka native 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 National Hockey League (NHL) announced that Minnesota had been awarded an expansion franchise, to begin play in the 2000–01 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.
The team was officially named the Wild, with the unveiling occurring at Aldrich Arena in the suburb of Maplewood on January 22, 1998. The new name was introduced to everyone with the song "Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf playing over the arena's speaker system. The Minnesota Wild announced its first major sponsorship agreement with MasterCard from First USA. It was the earliest that First USA had ever signed an agreement in advance of a team beginning play (31 months). The State of Minnesota adopted legislation in April 1998 to loan $65 million to the City of Saint Paul to fund 50% of the estimated $130 million project costs for the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. The legislation also provided that only $48 million of the loan needed to be repaid if the team met the requirements to have an agreement in place during the term of the lease with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. The City of Saint Paul issued an additional $65 million in bonds, with roughly 90% of the debt service on the bonds and the repayment of the state loan coming from scheduled rent and payment in lieu of taxes from the Minnesota Wild. Deconstruction of the Saint Paul Civic Center began soon thereafter and the Xcel Energy Center design was announced. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Xcel Energy Center was hosted in Saint Paul.
The Minnesota Wild announced a 26-year partnership agreement with the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission (MASC). The Minnesota Wild-MASC partnership is the first partnership of its kind between a private professional sports team and a public amateur sports organization. Doug Risebrough was named executive vice president/general manager of Minnesota Wild and the Xcel Energy Center was completed and ready for use.