Friday, April 11, 2014


The most important thing I'll say about Dan Mandich is that he's a prince of a man.  I have gotten to know him personally a little bit over the past few months.  While it's incredible how generous and personable so many old North Stars players are to their fans (it's a hockey thing), Mandich is at the very top of that list.

Mandich appeared in 111 NHL games over parts of four seasons with the North Stars, totaling five goals, even assists, and 303 penalty minutes.


Over his ten year career, Steve Payne was one of the most productive wings and top scorers in North Stars history. He scored 40 points as a rookie, but broke out for a 42 goal, 43 assist season and an All Star selection in his second year.  In 1980-81, when the North Stars made an improbable run to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance, Payne led the charge. He scored 17 goals and added 12 assists in the playoffs alone. His 29 points in 19 playoff games is an all-time North Stars record (Brian Bellows scored 29 as well during the '91 Stanley Cup run, but in 21 games). Included in his 17 goals were four game-winning goals. In his book, Lou Nanne called Payne the best clutch goal scorer in North Stars history. Payne surpassed the 20 goal mark in each of his first seven seasons, including four straight seasons over 30 goals, before spine and knee injuries prematurely ended his career.


Carl Wetzel had a decorated international hockey career as a goaltender for Team USA.  He appeared in only 7 NHL games -- two for his hometown Detroit Red Wings in 1964-65 and five for the North Stars during their inaugural 1967-68 season.  In both of those seasons he was the only US-born goalie to appear in an NHL game.  Five years later, Carl resurfaced for one game with the Fighting Saints of the upstart WHA.  He's a wonderful man who is now the gatekeeper of the NHL Alumni Lounge at the Xcel Energy Center.


Who would even want to imagine Minnesota hockey without Glen Sonmor?  The legendary fiery coach headed the Gophers, Saints, and North Stars over a 20 year span.  He also served as a GM (Fighting Saints), assistant GM (North Stars), player development director (Minnesota Moose), and scout (Minnesota Wild).  To younger generations of hockey fans, he was perhaps best known as the heart-on-his-sleeve radio analyst for Gophers hockey until his retirement in 2011.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Small-town Minnesota boy Mike Poepping was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent who spent eight seasons in their minor league system until receiving a September call-up in 1975.  He picked up five big league hits for his home-state team, then spent all of 1976 -- his last pro season -- at AAA Tacoma.