A legendary coach and GM, a goal-scorer, a playmaking defenseman, and a tough guy represented the many faces of the Minnesota North Stars at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.
Lou Nanne, Steve Payne, Brad Maxwell and Jack Carlson each donned a cream-colored pullover sweater, marked by their North Stars logo and a small Stadium Series patch, as they interacted with fans at section 113 on the main concourse.
The quartet, who will all play a role in the Stadium Series Alumni game on Feb. 20, were on hand to sign autographs for fans prior to making the “Let’s Play Hockey” announcement in the arena to help start the Wild’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nanne, who embodies the State of Hockey and growing the game as well as anyone ever could, knows the alumni game, consisting of players from the North Stars and the Wild, is more about celebration than strategy as he prepares to help coach the home team.
“It’s not really a lot of work to prepare lines because we’re just going to get the guys to all play and play together, and just give the fans the opportunity to see all these players,” Nanne said. GET YOUR STADIUM SERIES TICKETS
Fans shared memories of specific plays and games with Maxwell, Carlson, and Payne as they reminisced about growing up North Stars fans, now sporting Wild jerseys and gear with their kids. Nanne summed up the sentiment most conversations took, especially as it related to facing the Chicago Blackhawks.
“It’s just a thrill to be able to have these two teams play one another,” Nanne said. “There’s such a history and there’s been such a rivalry for so long that it’s so exciting, and to have many of the people that played a big part in this rivalry over the years to be here playing against one another - I think it’s going to be a real thrill for the players and coaches, but especially for the fans.”
It remains to be seen if the alumni on the ice will embrace their previous NHL roles – Carlson as a rugged enforcer, Maxwell as an offensive defenseman, and Payne as a source of scoring – but Nanne still knows where he can look to the latter for a spark when he needs it.
“For years they used to talk about Reggie Jackson being Mr. October in baseball,” Nanne explained. “Well, [Payne] was Mr. April and May for us in hockey. He just had a knack for scoring big goals throughout the course of his career, and he was a big, big part of any success the Minnesota North Stars had.”
Regardless of the score when these alumni teams meet on the outdoor rink at TCF Bank Stadium in February, the North Stars and Wild of days past will once again find success on the ice and in their fans hearts when they suit up one more time.
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