Monday, Mar. 1, 2021

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Nanne Pumped to See Wild Rookie


The Wild started training camp this week and the team opens its NHL season next week, debuting prize rookie Kirill Kaprizov. Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne, 79, is excited to watch the native of Novokuznetsk, Russia who is known for his offensive efficiency including game-winning goals.

“I can’t wait to see him,” Nanne told Sports Headliners. “I am like everybody else, wildly anticipating what he can do. I enjoyed watching him in the World Juniors…but now he’s in the NHL and we can see what he can do.”

What does the former Gopher, North Star defenseman and team president like about the 5-9, 195-pound forward? “Everything. The way he skates. The presence he’s got on the ice. The way he can shoot the puck. The way he can score goals. Stability on his skates—he’s built like a little fire truck…and he’s got magnificent hands.”

It appears based on past performance the Wild will struggle with goal scoring and Nanne emphasizes the importance of goaltending if Minnesota is to become a playoff team in 2021. “You don’t make the playoffs without goaltending if you’re not going to score a lot of goals, and I don’t see the Wild being a great goal scoring team. They’ll score enough to win (sometimes) but they don’t have an excess of scoring.

“They should be improved with Kaprizov coming because he can score goals, and (Kevin) Fiala coming into his own. So those two (Fiala led the team in points last season) give you some hope for a consistent scoring team. But they have to play tight defensively and they definitely have to have good goaltending.”

A playoff prediction for Minnesota? “Well, they’re going to have to battle to make a playoff position because they’re in a division where you’ve got Colorado, Vegas and St. Louis which are three teams that should be in the playoffs,” Nanne said.

Nanne, who thinks the Stanley Cup finalists could be Colorado and Tampa Bay, is one of six players on the 1960s WCHA All-Decade team announced Monday. The former Gopher All-American defenseman was named one of the WCHA’s 50 greatest players in 2002.

Nanne is looking forward to his 57th year of providing TV commentary for the boys state hockey tournament. Speculation is the tournament could be played in April, the latest dates in memory. It’s unknown, too, whether the boys basketball tournament will still follow the hockey tourney.

Worth Noting

It will be an interesting trio of games just ahead for Gopher center Liam Robbins who is emerging as one of college basketball’s best at his position. Tonight Minnesota plays Michigan, with freshman center standout Hunter Dickinson, and again on January 16. In between those dates (Sunday) is Iowa center Luka Garza, the favorite for college player of the year honors.

When the Gophers upset Iowa last month in a 102-95 home overtime win, Garza had the better stats with 32 points and 17 rebounds but Minnesota’s junior center, who transferred from Drake last year, was also effective with totals of 18 and five. Minnesota, 10-2, and Michigan, 9-0, play for the first time this season in Ann Arbor and the Wolverines are led in scoring by Dickinson at 16.9 points per game.

Robbins, who needs to avoid early foul trouble in his upcoming tests, is averaging 14.2 points per game and coming on strong as of late. His last three games include the first double-double of his Gopher career, scoring 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in Minnesota’s win over Ohio State Sunday.

Robbins’ value to the Gophers includes defense where the presence of the 7-foot Iowa native is a deterrent to potential scorers. He leads the Big Ten in blocked shots averaging 2.8 per game.

Dick Jonckowski

Former Gophers basketball public address announcer Dick Jonckowski has been diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The popular emcee and comic has been told the cancer is “not very aggressive.” He will have a series of eight rounds of chemo treatments. Several years ago he beat stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Ex-Gopher guard Andre Hollins is doing graduate work at the Carlson School of Management and serving as a graduate manager on the men’s basketball team.

The St. Thomas football program, headed to Division I status next fall, is looking for three nonconference games to balance out its Pioneer Football League schedule.

It’s not known whether WCCO Radio, the longtime broadcast home of Tommies football, will be airing games next fall.

Historic numbers: The Gopher hockey program, celebrating 100 seasons, boasts a 10-0 team for the first time in more than 80 years.

The 2021 NFL Mock Draft out Tuesday has the Vikings using the No. 14 pick in the first round to select edge rusher Gregory Rousseau from the University of Miami. Marshall, Minnesota native Trey Lance, the quarterback from NDSU, is predicted to go at No. 8 to the Panthers. Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman isn’t included among the 32 mock picks in the first round.

If Gary Kubiak decides to leave the Vikings as offensive coordinator, that’s one fewer father-son connection on the team. Clint Kubiak is quarterbacks coach, while head coach Mike Zimmer’s son Adam Zimmer is co-defensive coordinator with Andre Patterson, whose son AC Patterson is an offensive quality control coach.

Former Vikings head coach Jerry Burns, who has spent part of his retirement years in Jamaica, will be 94 January 27.

It was 60 years ago last week that the Golden Gophers football team played in its first Rose Bowl, losing 17-7 to Washington. The Gophers returned to the Rose Bowl in January of 1962 and defeated UCLA, 21-3.

Anonymous basketball authority talking about the Timberwolves who are 2-5 and have lost five consecutive mostly one-sided games: “They’re hard to watch.”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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