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'MN is me and I'm MN': Hockey legend Lou Nanne marks nearly 60 years calling boys state hockey tourney

From his Gopher All-American days to his years with the North Stars, his well-rounded hockey career also includes almost six decade calling the state tournament.

MINNEAPOLIS — "This is WTCN-TV 11 Minneapolis-St Paul."

In 1964, independent Twin Cities TV station WTCN, which is now KARE-TV, held the rights to the Minnesota Boys State Hockey Tournament, and enlisted former Gopher hockey star Lou Nanne to join the broadcast team.

“They called me up and asked me to come down to the station, which I did,” said Nanne.

“So, you were on Channel 11,” said Randy Shaver to Nanne. “The very first state hockey tournament that you did in '64, what do you remember about that?”

“Oh, I remember that I was not really nervous, but I was busy,” said Nanne.

Busy, because Lou basically did everything. From game color commentary to between-period interviews, he was also there through both the pregame and postgame. Back then, the TV broadcast of the boys' tourney was incredibly basic — not like today.

At that time, the tournament was held in the St. Paul Auditorium, which later became Roy Wilkens Auditorium when the Civic Center was opened in 1976.
Lou remembers getting a workout because he was so busy.

“I'm telling you, after three days, my legs were like rubber,” said Nanne. I could hardly walk. It was a tough assignment.”

“How old were you at the time?,” asked Shaver.

“In '64, I was 23,” said Nanne.

So much has changed in 59 years.

The boys' state hockey tournament is now two classes and gone are the clear dashers made famous at the St. Paul Civic Center. The TV rights to broadcast the event no longer command millions of dollars, and the talent on display since 1964, has exceeded all expectations — even Lou's.

“Like last year and after doing these many tournaments, seeing that championship game, I don't know when I've seen a better high school game in my life,” said Nanne. “It’s just mindboggling how skilled and how good these kids have become.”

Hockey Day Minnesota was held last month in White Bear Lake. It's a celebration of the game we love, and it wouldn't be complete without Lou Nanne — after all, Lou is recognized as Mr. Hockey in Minnesota.

From his Gopher All-American days in the early 1960s to his 23 years with the North Stars as a player, coach and general manager, his well-rounded hockey career also includes working in the broadcast booth, where he'll celebrate 59 years at the boys' state tourney this March.

“You're the face, the voice, of Minnesota hockey,” said Shaver.

“I enjoy being part of it. I enjoy watching the growth,” said Nanne. “I enjoy my good fortune to be able to help others enjoy what I loved. Minnesota is me and I'm Minnesota — that's who I am. That's what I've done,” said Nanne.

Hockey may be his love, but family will always come first for Lou. And it's family that may keep him in the broadcast booth at the boys' tournament for, believe it or not, many years to come.

“I've had the good fortune to do my son and two of my grandsons in the state tournament,” said Nanne.

“So your goal is to broadcast your great-grandson’s state hockey game?" asked Shaver.

“Yeah, in 11 years,” said Nanne. “That's what I'm thinking about. Well, that's what I know. And if he's good enough, maybe you make the team sooner and everything would make it. And right. You get by with nine years.”

“And right now, you're how old?" asked Shaver.

“Eighty-one,” said Lou.

“You would be 92 at the time,” said Randy.

“Be perfect age,” Lou said.

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