July 3, 2014
In the long history of Minnesota hockey – not just Gopher hockey, but hockey across the state of Minnesota – few people can match the impact of Lou Nanne. The former Gopher star and player, head coach, general manager and president of the Minnesota North Stars probably wouldn’t have come to Minnesota in the first place if he had his choice, but ending up here profoundly and positively changed his life.
The following is an excerpt from a feature piece titled “If You Come Here, You’ll Never Leave” which details Nanne’s path to the University of Minnesota and how a few significant moments shaped much of his life.
Be sure to check out the entire piece, as well as other great articles about outstanding Gopher student-athletes and teams, in the July 2014 issue of Ski-U-Mah, which is available in print at Gopher Athletics venues and online at GopherSports.com.
Lou’s ascent to legendary status among Minnesotans almost didn’t happen. If Lou had his way coming out of high school, he probably wouldn’t have come to the United States at all. He wanted to go to the University of Toronto and play for St. Michael’s of the Junior A League. The Blackhawks said no to that idea, telling Lou he would have to play for St. Catherine’s and that he could attend McMaster University in nearby Hamilton, Ontario. For Lou, that was not an option.
“They didn’t have a dental school so I said ‘no, I won’t do that,’” said Lou. Dental school was a must for young Nanne, a bit ironic considering his passion for hockey, a sport well-known for producing more toothless smiles than any other. “My uncle was a dentist. My brother is a dentist. My two nieces are dentists. Our son was a dentist,” said Lou. “My uncle had a good life back home and he wanted me to be his partner.”
When Lou refused the Blackhawks request to play at St. Catherine’s, the organization told him he wouldn’t be playing anywhere else in Canada. Lou had to start looking at his options in the United States. He heard from a number of schools but, oddly, it was a visit from Bob May, the head coach at rival North Dakota, that eventually led him to Minnesota.
“I told [May] I wouldn’t go to North Dakota because they didn’t have a dental school,” said Lou. A few weeks later, May ran into Minnesota head coach John Mariucci in downtown Minneapolis. “He told Mariucci about me. Mariucci called me and asked me to come and visit, which I did. They had a great dental school here. So I came, I really liked what I saw and I made the commitment to come.”
Though Minnesota’s respected dental school played a key role in getting Lou on campus, by his second semester, the quality of the dental school no longer mattered.
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