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Wild, North Stars alumni to face Blackhawks outdoors

by Dan Myers / Chicago Blackhawks

MINNEAPOLIS -- If there was ever going to be a scuffle at an alumni game, the one between the Chicago Blackhawks and the "Team Minnesota" squad comprised of legends from the Minnesota North Stars and Minnesota Wild might just provide it.

Blackhawks alumni along with those of the North Stars and Wild will play a game on Feb. 20, 2016, one day before the current franchises take part in the Coors Lights NHL Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

"I don't have to hype it because it comes naturally," said Lou Nanne, former North Stars player, coach and general manager. "In 1984 or '85, we had some owners who were trying to get away from divisional rivalries saying, 'Let's play each other less.' [Blackhawks owner] Bill Wirtz stood up and said, 'Give me 40 games against the North Stars and I'll take them.'

"We've had such a passionate rivalry and it means so much. I think it's appropriate that these two teams are playing the first outdoor NHL game here."

Nanne, along with Tom Reid, a former North Star and Blackhawk, will coach Team Minnesota and a roster that features Hall of Famer members Mike Modano, Dino Ciccarelli and Neal Broten.

In all, 20 former North Stars and seven former Wild players will team up to play 21 former Blackhawks, coached by Tony Esposito and Pat Foley.

"In the '80s, when I played for the Blackhawks, that was our biggest rivalry," said Troy Murphy, who will participate on the Chicago team and is the club's current play-by-play analyst on the radio. "The way that the emotions were involved in those series and in those games, every fan and every player in that era that played in those games, they remember."

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold is one who said he is looking forward to the alumni game nearly as much as the main event. The same can be said for a number of local fans, who still purchase and wear North Stars gear.

North Stars hats, jerseys and sweatshirts are commonly seen at Wild games at Xcel Energy Center, speaking to the closeness that team has with a generation of hockey fans in Minnesota.

"It's going to be an opportunity for different generations to combine the Wild and the North Stars," Murray said. "It's going to be a great opportunity for several generations to admire this rivalry that has been such a great one over the years."

Murray, who attended the University of North Dakota, said he saw that passion for the North Stars the first time he stepped foot on campus in Grand Forks, N.D.

Still, he said he hopes emotions will be kept in check when the teams hit the ice in February.

"It'll be pretty interesting to see if the hatchet has been buried over the years," Murray said. "You realize that these guys are good guys, but they are hated rivals. It should be a good opportunity to look across at a guy and have a good smile, a good chuckle because you understand the situation has changed. It'll be interesting to see how people are."

Nanne isn't so sure the rivalry will be any less intense, recalling a story from a past alumni game between the teams.

"I remember one night playing an old-timers game in Chicago and I hit Keith Magnuson," Nanne said. He told me, 'Louie, this is supposed to be no-checking,' and I said, 'Sorry, I just forgot.'"

Author: Dan Myers | Correspondent

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