Sunday, June 15, 2014


"Sweet Lou from the Soo" is as synonymous with Minnesota hockey as anybody.  For over 50 years now, since arriving in Minnesota from his native Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Lou has done just about everything imaginable for hockey in Minnesota and the United States.  He was a star defenseman and team captain for the Gophers in the early 1960s.  After becoming a U.S. citizen, he captained the 1968 U.S. Olympic team.  Once those games were over, he signed with the North Stars (at the tail end of their inaugural 1967-68 season) and stuck with them for the next ten years.  During the 1977-78 season, while he was still playing, he was offered the dual roles of head coach and general manager of the North Stars.  He gave up coaching duties at the end of the season, but stayed in the GM's chair through 1988, when he was named team president.  He has been a part of the broadcasting crew for the Minnesota State High School Tournament for many years, serves as the fundraising chair for the University of Minnesota's athletic department, and makes weekly appearances on the state's two largest sports-talk radio stations.

He has done it all and been a tireless salesman for the sport and the state the entire time, but Lou Nanne is best remembered for his time with the North Stars.  He was a part of the organization for 24 of its 26 seasons in Minnesota.  Though he had a long career and a defenseman and wing, his legacy is as the GM.  When he took over, the North Stars were the doormats of the NHL.  In his first draft at the helm, he added Bobby Smith, Steve Payne, Steve Christoff, and Curt Giles to the roster.  In his second, he picked up Craig Hartsburg, Tom McCarthy, and Neal Broten.  In September of 1979, Nanne signed an undrafted free agent named Dino Ciccarelli.  In the second round of the 1980 draft, he drafted a goaltender named Don Beaupre.  By the end of that 1980-81 season, the North Stars were in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Nanne's track record as GM dropped off drastically from that point.  He deftly maneuvered to acquire Brian Bellows in the 1982 draft, but no other draft choices made a major impact until Mike Modano in 1988.  Fans are still upset over his trading away of Bobby Smith and his choice of Brian Lawton with the #1 overall pick in the 1983 draft (passing over the likes of future Hall of Famers Steve Yzerman and Pat LaFontaine, and two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Tom Barrasso).  It's hard to argue with the talent he acquired during his first five years on the job, though.  Most of the great players in North Stars history were acquired by Lou Nanne.

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