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The response was as ecstatic as the signings were unexpected.

The Wild had pulled off one of the greatest surprises in NHL free agent history when it brought in two generational talents on identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on July 4, 2012.

Winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter were both 27-years-old and had made multiple All-Star games when they hit the free agent market at the same time. They were, unquestionably, the two biggest names available — with rumors of $100 million-plus deals being floated — when Wild owner Craig Leipold and the front office worked behind the scenes magic to get both players to forgo larger contracts and instead join forces in Minnesota.

When the deals were completed, Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan wrote that Leipold had shown what it took to lead a front office with ecstatic risk taking. And Leipold shared what it felt like behind the scenes in the burgeoning era of the super team dictated by star power, not just front office moxie:

On Wednesday, Leipold became the Alpha Male of Minnesota sports owners, funding the signing of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts worth $98 million each. He wrote a check for $20 million to cover their signing bonuses, then made plans to bring a very special bottle of wine to a friend's house for a celebratory dinner.

Parise alone would have become the most stunning and lucrative free-agent acquisition in Twin Cities history. Beating elite franchises New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Detroit in the chase for Parise and Suter made this the most important day in franchise history.

Speaking from his office in Racine, Wis., Leipold called himself a ''madman.'' He also revealed how unpredictable the pursuit became.

''We're all so worn out,'' he said. ''At the end, we felt like everything was coming together. Ryan and Zach were communicating with each other and were almost in control of the whole process, and it was at that point you really felt like this was going to happen.

''That was the high point. Monday night was the low point. We weren't making enough progress with either side, and we weren't hearing or getting enough information that was encouraging. Then you look at the blogs and people are saying they saw Zach in Pittsburgh, or Detroit is flying in to see Ryan, and you feel like, 'Oh, boy, we worked so hard and we planned so much and we have such a good story to tell and we're not going to get either one of them.'

''Then, 24 hours later it's the opposite.''

Patrick Reusse noted that, for once, star players in power positions had chosen — not been drafted or traded or redeemed, but chosen — to play in Minnesota:

On July 4, 2012, on a steamy day to celebrate our nation's 236th birthday, the thoughts of Minnesota's sports fans were turned to winter nights and frozen surfaces and well-placed passes of a hockey puck.

The Wild pulled off the shocking exacta of signing the NHL's premier free agents, forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, on Wednesday, and our long sports nightmare was instantly transformed into runaway giddiness.

Even those Minnesotans who can take hockey or leave it were blown away by the idea that two athletes with options to play in New York or Chicago, or to play with established stars in Pittsburgh or Detroit, decided they wanted to be here.

Wanted to play in the Twin Cities.

Maybe it was a heat-induced hallucination, but I could swear there was a woman that looked like a young Sally Field running down University Avenue shouting, "They like us. They really like us."

And Chip Scoggins said the return of Parise was about hockey history in the state as much as contracts:

Zach was born here, raised here and makes his offseason home in Orono. He will wear the same jersey number — 11 — that his dad [J.P. Parise] wore as a member of the North Stars.

Zach's bloodlines, talent and hometown ties left Wild fans hyperventilating with excitement and anticipation. J.P. said he tried to remain a neutral party throughout the process because he understood Zach's loyalty to the New Jersey Devils.

"Of course we're happy, but it's not about me or his mother," he said. "It's about him getting himself set for life and settling down in Minnesota. He's the one who made the decision. He's really excited about the decision and, for me, that's what it's about. To watch my son be happy. That's a fatherly feeling.

Even the Star Tribune editorial board got caught up in the signings, writing that bringing in Suter and Parise brought legitimacy to the state's passionate hockey fans in the middle of a summer heatwave:

The oppressive heat that's hung over much of Minnesota the past week or so made it especially appealing to think about the upcoming hockey season as the hometown Wild courted Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Even though it initially seemed unlikely that the team could land the two free-agent stars, the National Hockey League fantasy was a nice distraction for dedicated Wild fans and winning-starved State of Hockey residents who would like to jump on a bandwagon — any bandwagon — with a legitimate shot of winning.

Prepare to take that leap, sports fans. The July 4th signings of both Parise and Suter to $98 million, 13-year deals touched off a celebration that could last for years if the two players stay healthy and continue to be among the NHL's best at their positions.

And while Parise and Suter never quite reached the summit of hockey, failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs in their nine seasons with the Wild, there's no question that their signings remain a high point for free-agency surprises in Minnesota sports history.