When Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed 13-year contracts with the Wild two summers ago, the length of the deals was unheard of in hockey circles.
That makes tonight’s State of Hockey Legacy Award honoree, Lou Nanne, extremely remarkable. Nanne has called Minnesota home for more than 50 years. Among the numerous reasons Nanne was honored tonight is the fact that he is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first year calling the Minnesota State High School League Tournament.
“It’s been very unique, and I’ve been lucky,” said Nanne, an Ontario native who enrolled in the University of Minnesota in 1960. “When you’re in pro sports, you’re always leery of having to move, whether you’re traded, or sign somewhere different as a free agent. I’ve been able to have a 50-year career here. “
Nanne went on to become an American citizen, playing in the 1968 Olympic Games. He spent his entire NHL playing career in Minnesota, skating 635 games for the North Stars. At various times, he served as coach, general manager and president of the North Stars.
Nanne also began broadcasting the State Tournament in 1964 — this year marks the 50th anniversary of his first time on the air. He said he missed “two or three” years when his playing career didn’t allow him to broadcast.
“I was very nervous,” Nanne said. “It was 1964, I had finished playing in ’63. They asked me if I wanted to broadcast. I’d never done it. We didn’t do a lot of things with athletes on television back then…it was mainly papers that covered hockey. It was a new thing, a different thing, I was nervous but enjoyed it and learned on the go.”
The best player he’s seen in a high school tournament is a toss-up between Tim Sheehy and Henry Boucha, he said. He also noted that Neal Broten and Phil Housley became great high school players after their state tournament appearances.
The State of Hockey Legacy Award has been presented by the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Hockey and FOX Sports North as a part of Hockey Day Minnesota since 2010. The award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary and long-term contributions to hockey in Minnesota. Prior recipients are Lou Cotroneo in 2010, Neal Broten in 2011 and Glen Sonmor in 2012. (There was no award in 2013 due to timing of Hockey Day coinciding with end of NHL work stoppage.)
“Lou Nanne is an ambassador not only for the sport of hockey, but for the entire State of Hockey,” Wild owner Craig Leipold said. “We proudly recognize him for more than 50 years of service to Minnesota and its official sport.”