Minnesota Vikings Inc. came into existence as a prospective member of our sports community on June 14, 1960. Max Winter was among the four owners along with Fred Lundin, Phil Wolsieffer and Harry Gustafson.
It’s a familiar tale that Max spent days at the NFL owners meeting in Miami in January 1960, waiting for confirmation that Dallas (for 1960) and Minnesota (for 1961) would become NFL expansion teams.
Yet, it was not until Sept. 27, 1960, that “Vikings” was revealed as the nickname for the NFL expansion team. And we also know that H.P. Skoglund, Bill Boyer, Bernie Ridder and Ole Haugsrud were Winter’s football partners.
So what gives? This:
The Minnesota Vikings incorporated in June 1960 were not the sports entity revealed 105 days later as the football Vikings. The original Vikings were a bowling team about to land a franchise in the National Bowling League, a new concept in kegling and planning to start competition in October 1961.
Neil Naftalin, a long-serving financial analyst in the Twin Cities, sent along a prospectus issued on Feb. 21, 1961, revealing that Minnesota Vikings Inc. became Convention Centers Inc. late in 1960.
The prospectus states that in the fall of 1960, a request was made “by the Minnesota entry in the National Football League for the use of ‘Minnesota Vikings’ as the name of the professional football team …”
Naftalin’s company issued the prospectus and he wrote recently: “The bowling team did not have to grant the request. Had Max Winter not been so influential with the bowling team, our NFL team might have had a different name the past 60 years.”
The bowling team became the Twin Cities Skippers. They competed in the new Convention Center Arena, a facility with 3,000 theater seats just south of Met Stadium.
The 10-team NBL folded after one season. The arena was transformed into the Carlton Celebrity Room.
Still, before the league went kaput, the bowlers who were almost the Vikings set a precedent for our infamous football Vikings: On May 6, 1962, they were swept away in the championship showdown by the Detroit Thunderbirds.
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• The Skippers reached the championship round by winning the NBL’s “second half’’ with a 26-7 record. They were assisted by four of the 10 franchises folding after the first half.
• Bob Strampe was the Skippers’ star. Detroit’s big roller was Billy Golembiewski — or “Billy G” on TV bowling.’’
• Len Homel from L.A. was the NBL’s founder. Weekly bowling shows were popular and Homel’s thought was the team concept was certain to lead to a national TV contract. Didn’t happen. Goodbye, NBL.