Thomas U. Tuttle

Wild ghosts of days gone by…

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

When I was a young guy, there was a youth hockey team called the Minor Hawks that played out of Chicago and traveled around playing the best teams that could be found. Unlike the famous NHL Blackhawks, indoor ice time was at a premium and outdoor rink hockey was at the whim of the weather spirits. Still, this early traveling all-star team was about as good a squad as any in the Midwest.

Or should I say “lower” Midwest. Because of a fair amount of local-area success, the coaches decided to play some more serious competition late in a 1970’s-era season, so up we went to Madison, Wisconsin, where the competition ramped up and the losses, while consecutive, were fairly competitive.

Then it was on to tournaments in the Twin Cities and Duluth, and soon a whole new understanding of the  game of hockey was brought to our attention – along with fast skating, solid checking, tape-to-tape passing, wicked wrist-shots, solid slap-shots and serious goaltending. There was a group realization by the Chicago kids that not only were we overmatched and outscored – we really really didn’t belong in the same building with the guys from Minnesota. They might have been 13 and 14 years old, but the dudes from the State of Hockey schooled us big-time and the numbers on the scoreboard reflected that.

I’m not sure this reminiscence has much to do with the Minnesota Wild’s demise in the first round of the NHL playoffs, although the Wild ended up being schooled in five games by the St. Louis Blues and coach Mike Yeo. Yes, goalie Jake Allen was stellar in the nets – particularly in the first game when he stood on his head in making 51 saves on 52 shots – and the Blues were timely on offense, but it seemed like Mike Yeo knew what needed to be done for victory and executed his plan perfectly.

While Allen certainly deserves all the credit for the victory in game one, Yeo ramped up his defense for the rest of the series, using his knowledge of Minnesota and its players to turn up the heat on the Wild scorers. The Blues played a super-physical brand of hockey and made the Wild work hard to get any scoring opportunities, using guys with names like Bortuzzo and Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo and Parayko to clog up the middle and make sure the W’s offensive threats knew what they were up against.

And actually, this reminded me of our best guys on the Minor Hawks, Ray and Eddie and Big Al, being shut-down in the Twin Cities and Duluth on our trip up north. Every time our top players started to move up the ice, looking for some space to execute, here would come two or three big kids ready to bust things up. In our case, we had never seen pressure like that, and it didn’t let up. Just scoring a goal was a cause for major celebration (I think we scored six during our week in Minnesota).

The Wild have been in tight checking games, and they are not young kids. But take a look at the production of Minnesota’s top offensive threats in the playoffs versus the regular season. Leading scorer Mikael Granlund was almost invisible, with no goals in the playoffs. Nino Niederreiter and Zack Parise were largely neutralized, as was the power play – and the normally strong blue line contribution was minimal. Hey, Minnesota scored just five goals in the first four games of the series – a mere 1.25 goals a game. When they finally busted loose for three goals at home in game five, it fell short again in a 4-3 overtime loss.

Bruce Boudreau’s history of getting knocked off in the playoffs continues (this was his ninth playoff exit, four with the Washington, four with Anaheim, and now the Wild) and the pressure on the coming season will be intense. Part of his problem is the perception that he’s a great coach (leading the Mighty Ducks to first place each year of his tenure; the Wild to their best record ever) who simply can’t win in the playoffs – a leader who is unable to  “win the Big One,” if you will.

You have to know this dilemma will carry over to next year and, unfortunately, lead to the regular season being a kind of tune-up for the “real” season: the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It really is a different deal in post-season hockey, with the top-seeded Blackhawks vanishing in four straight against the Nashville Predators and the number two Wild departing to the Blues – sayonara to Montreal as well.

Us old Minor Hawks kids know the feeling of getting beat, if not by close scores. Ray and Eddie, our leaders and most talented players, never quit (unlike accusations that Parise and Ryan Suter cost Mike Yeo the locker room prior to his exit from Minnesota) and I don’t believe the Wild gave anything less than their best. But it simply wasn’t enough against a tough defensive team that knew how to play the Wild and executed a solid game plan. And it is hard to argue that Yeo wasn’t the better coach in the series.

Mike Yeo was genuinely classy in victory, as many of us in the media knew he would be. Minor Hawks coach Atkinson was classy, too, when we succumbed to defeat by big numbers. We never won the big one (or any big game), but we learned a great deal and still had fun.

Unfortunately for coach Boudreau, he needs to win a big one badly, and that rough road is going through Chicago or St. Louis or somebody tough – that just how NHL hockey goes in the springtime. Fun only accompanies winning.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Minn U soccer at TCF is a cool event

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By Eric Nelson
April 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of 10 million potholes...

•Cool Vibe: I had a chance to see my first Minnesota United game at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday and was very impressed. The flag-waving, towel twirling crowd of 17,491 was involved and vocal the entire match. It was good theater. Midway through the second half there was a sunlight/shadow mix on the pitch, producing some spectacular visuals – which is another advantage to playing outside…

Minnesota United MLS soccer

Minnesota Loons at TCF Stadium
-April 2017

 

•Doubleheader: The Loons got their first-ever MLS shutout as Minn U blanked Colorado 1-0. The game-winning goal came when Johan Venegas used a header to get the ball to Miguel Ibarra who scored on a sprawling head shot. In this case, two heads were better than one..

 

•Money-Makers: According to the LA Times, the top 10 selling jerseys in MLB are:

  1. Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs),
  2. Anthony Rizzo (Cubs),
  3. Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers),
  4. Javier Baez (Cubs),
  5. Kyle Schwarber (Cubs),
  6. Noah Syndergaard (NY Mets),
  7. Corey Seager (LA Dodgers),
  8. Buster Posey (SF),
  9. Gary Sanchez (NY Yankees)
  10. Mike Trout (LA Angels)

 

•Barefootball: According to the LA Times, the Chargers have been conducting some of their off-season workouts barefoot. What’s next, practicing on the beach..?

•PJ’s pitch: New U of M football coach PJ Fleck has been making his pitch to Gopher fans and potential recruits since being hired in early January. On Saturday he made another kind of pitch as he threw out the first pitch before the Detroit-Minnesota game at Target Field…

•Homecoming Hype: Now that Adrian Peterson has signed with the Saints, let the buildup begin. New Orleans and Minnesota open the season on September 11 in Minneapolis, meaning AP’s first game as a Saint is against his old team. ESPN is carrying the Monday night broadcast, which means the network will probably start hyping the telecast in July…

Adrian Peterson changes direction

•Standing O: Btw, AP deserves a loud ovation from the Purple Nation when he jogs onto the USB field turf. In 10 seasons with the Vikings AP ran for 11,747 yards, scored 102 touchdowns, played in seven Pro Bowls and was the 2012 NFL MVP when he gained 2,097 yards. That kind of production should garner him plenty of cheers…

•Cone Zone: Driving on I-94 through Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis these days means dodging orange barrels and cones, and driving over craters and potholes. “Minnesota’s Main Street” has been reduced to a couple of lanes in some parts because MNDOT has begun the monstrous $46.3 million project. Phase one of the I-94 construction will be finished by late October or early November and have no impact on Super Bowl LII. Construction will resume in late March or Early April of 2018…

•Capable and Qualified: Golden State HC Steve Kerr is one of the best in the business. But, with Kerr out because of a back injury, assistant Mike Brown took over the Warriors coaching duties for game 3 of their NBA playoff series against Portland. Golden State did not skip a beat, winning 119-113 and has a commanding 3-0 series lead. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown’s resume includes two stints as HC in Cleveland (2005-10, 2013-14) and with the LA Lakers (2011-12). Brown has coached in 83 playoff games, including the 2007 NBA Finals when San Antonio swept Cleveland in four games…

•Marathon Man: Joe Gagnon has accomplished his daunting goal of running six marathons on six continents in six days. Gagnon began his incredible journey in Australia on April 10 and finished up in Southern California on April 15. He ran in Sydney, Singapore, Johannesburg, London, Sao Paolo and Los Angeles…

•Mile Count: Gagnon did this to raise money for Project Bright Light which is part of LA-based Chimein.org, an organization that aids impoverished youth. He ran 156 miles, logged over 40,00 air miles in coach and did not stay in a hotel the entire trip…

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Making the case for NBA MVP

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By Larry Fitzgerald
April 20, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

OK, by a show of hands, your choice for NBA MVP is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right? He led the NBA in scoring with 31.9 per game. He averaged a triple double for the season — 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists over 80 games.

He broke Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record of 41 triple doubles with the new high mark of 42. Oscar Robertson is a legend of an era where the big man dominated the NBA. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed all led their teams to titles.

Guards like the “Big O” Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Walt Frazier did not get the attention back then compared to what guards receive today. Back in the 1961-62 season, Robertson, while setting the NBA record of 41 triple doubles, finished third in the MVP voting to Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Russell was the MVP with 18.9 points, 23 rebounds, and averaged five blocked shots per game.

Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain that year averaged 50.4 points per game and was the runner-up to Russell for the MVP that season. That’s something for you to think about before you assume Westbrook has locked up the MVP Award. History has shown that the MVP award usually goes to the best player on one of the league’s top teams.

For example, last year Stephen Curry of Golden State led the Warriors to an NBA regular-season record 73 wins while scoring 30 points a game. He won the honor the previous season also by leading the Warriors to 67 wins; again, they had the best record in the NBA.

Westbrook, as dominating as he was, led Oklahoma City to a 47-35 record, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference. Most people think James Harden of Houston, with 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and leading the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game, could grab the MVP trophy because Houston was 55-27, third-best record in the NBA.

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook

I think the vote will be real close. Curry, the winner the last two years, averaged 25.4 points, his new teammate Kevin Durant averaged 25 points, and the Warriors had the best record again with 67 wins.

Kiwai Leonard of San Antonio averaged a career-best 25.7 points per game while leading the Spurs to 61 wins, second-best in the NBA the year legend Tim Duncan retired after 18 seasons. Boston’s Isiah Thomas led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference and tied Harden, averaging 29.1 points per game.

LeBron James and Cleveland slipped to number two in the East, but as defending NBA Champions and averaging 26.4 points per game. The King, a four-time MVP winner, will get a lot of votes also.

I tend to lean to the best player on the best team. That formula seems to be the way the voters go, and history shows that whether it’s 1961-62 or 2016-17, it’s still a team game. The best player on the best team wins MVP honors just about every year. We will soon see.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Ervin Santana’s mound magic is good news for the Minnesota Twins

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By Eric Nelson
April 18, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of April showers...

•Fast Start: MLB does not hand out Cy Young trophies in April, but if Ervin Santana keeps pitching like he has been, he might win the award. Santana (3-0, 0.41 ERA) has been outstanding with 15 strikeouts and just five walks in 22 innings. Santana’s most recent outing was a gem. He threw a complete game one-hitter in the Twins 6-0 win over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday…

•Mound Showdown: Santana’s next start is Thursday against Cleveland in Minneapolis. RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 6.38 ERA) will start for the Indians. Kluber won the 2014 AL Cy Young award with an 18-9 record…

•Sputtering Starts: Twins’ CF Byron Buxton and 1B Joe Mauer are struggling this season. Buxton is batting .093 (no home runs, no RBI and 23 strikeouts), while Mauer’s average is .213 (no home runs, 6 RBI). All of Mauer’s 10 hits have been singles…

•Crowd Counts: Despite a respectable 7-6 start and mild April weather, people are not exactly flocking to trendy Target Field. Monday’s Indians-Twins game drew just 16,961 fans. In seven home dates Minnesota is averaging 21,677, which is 28th out of 30 MLB teams. Only Tampa Bay (17,977 average) and Oakland (17,131) attract fewer to the ballpark. St. Louis leads the majors in attendance (44,992)…

•Sparse Gathering: The Gopher football team knows all about small turnouts. The estimated crowd for Minnesota’s spring game was a meager 5,000, proving once again that on the college football map Minneapolis is light years away from hotbeds such as Ann Arbor, Baton Rouge, Columbus, Gainesville, Lincoln, Madison, State College, South Bend and Tuscaloosa…

•Free Fall: It’s a worst-case scenario come true for the Minnesota Wild. The Wild trail 3-0 in their first round playoff series and are on the brink of elimination. Compounding the misery is that the Wild are losing to St. Louis. Yes, the same Blues who are coached by Mike Yeo, a guy Minnesota kicked to the curb last season. It’s mind boggling that the Wild are in this spot, after they had their best regular season in franchise history with 106 points…

•Perception is Reality: If the Wild get bounced in round one it will add fuel to the fire for Bruce Boudrerau critics. Boudreau is the NHL’s version of Marty Schottenheimer – a great regular season coach who stumbles in the post-season…

•Hawk Shock: It’s also hard to believe, but the Blackhawks are in the same precarious predicament as the Wild. Nashville defeated Chicago 3-2 in overtime Monday in Tennessee. The Predators have a commanding 3-0 lead in that playoff series and have outscored the Blackhawks 9-2…

•Bad Timing: If the Wild and Blackhawks both get knocked out in round one, Minnesota fans will be saying, “woulda, coulda, shoulda” all off-season. Chicago historically has been playoff kryptonite for Minnesota and this would have been the Wild’s chance to advance without having to get past the Blackhawks…

•Home Cooking: After a 2-2 draw last week in Houston, Minnesota United returns to the Twin Cities for three straight games. Minn U plays Colorado on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, then hosts San Jose on April 29 and Sporting KC on May 29…

•Knick Knacks: I am tired of the constant media hype surrounding Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. Who cares? This soap opera is only relevant in the 212 area code. The Knicks are not a well run franchise and don’t have a great history. They get attention simply because they play in NYC. If the Knicks were in Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis or Salt Lake City they would be off the grid…

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Believe it — we did it again!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
April 13, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

April has started with a bang! It’s been an incredible week, one I call the greatest week in sports. I saw North Carolina win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Monday night with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga in Glendale, Arizona. North Carolina matched what Clemson did — they came back and beat Alabama in the college football playoff championship.

As you’ll recall, LeBron James led Cleveland to win over Golden State in the NBA Finals rematch last year. And two years before that, Kansas City came back to win over New York in the World Series. In each case, the teams returned to grab the title after the heartbreak of losing a championship the previous season.

Locally, the Twins started the season fast by sweeping the Kansas City Royals 7-1, 9-1 and 5-3 at Target Field.

Members of the Fitzgerald family at the 2017 CFMF event (front, l-r): Mercedes Johnson and Jaylen Fitzgerald (back, l-r): Marcus Fitzgerald, Larry Fitzgerald, Sr., and Larry Fitzgerald, Jr.

Finally, Sergio Garcia grabbed his first major title by beating Justin Rose, the Gold Medal winner, in a dramatic playoff at Augusta to capture his first Masters title. This, after failing over 19 years and 74 major championships.

To cap off the week, the 13th Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund (CFMF) Benefit & Celebration drew several hundred people for dinner and fellowship. The sports-themed events, with remarkable and priceless memorabilia and auction items, honored the great memory of my late wife Carol.

The events drew rave reviews, with the highlight being the return of native son Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., a 10-time Pro Bowler and Co-NFL “Walter Payton Man of the Year.” Artist Mike Phillips headlined the event, bringing soulful yet funky grooves to the celebration.

The benefit at the Minneapolis Event Center April 7, raised thousands for organizations in the battle against breast cancer, and in support of HIV prevention and urban education. An after-party at Seven Ultra Lounge followed. The community celebration took place Saturday, April 8, at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Minneapolis.

The 2017 grant winners were: Horizons Youth Program at Sabathani Community Center, Minneapolis North Boys Basketball, New Beginnings Church After School Program, Page Education Foundation, Plano Child Development Center, Summit University Teen Center, Swish Dreams, Xavier University Alumni, HAS Program, Minnesota African American Women, Pillsbury HIV Health Education Program, African American Breast Cancer Alliance, Butterfly 4 Life Support Network and the Pay It Forward Fund.

North Point Heath & Wellness CEO Stella Whitney-West delivered an impassioned message about her late friend Carol and how it has impacted her career path.

The Fitzgerald family is appreciative of family and friends (Faith-Focus-Finish) who came from all corners of the United States to support this remarkable cause. We again thank you.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: New logo, new-look arena and a talented core create optimism for the Minnesota Timberwolves

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By Eric Nelson
April 12, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of logos

• Playoff Drought:  Once again the Minnesota Timberwolves are absent from the NBA playoffs. This has become a spring tradition for the Wolves, who have missed the post-season since 2004 – the longest current drought in the Association. For the 13th straight off-season the Wolves will be selling hope and optimism to their incredibly patient fan base…

• New Look:  On Tuesday night at Target Center, the Timberwolves unveiled a cool new logo against Oklahoma City. Minnesota hyped the event for weeks and it generated plenty of buzz in the Twin Cities. The logo was a perfect distraction and took away the focus from another lost season. The circular logo – which includes an aurora green north star next to a howling wolf on a basketball backdrop – is cutting edge. Other colors include midnight blue, lake blue, moonlight grey and frost white…

New Timberwolves logo adorns the scoreboard at Target Center

Timberwolves unveil a new look

• New-look Arena:  The combination of a trendy logo, Target Center’s $150 million renovation, and young stars such as Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, give Wolves fans reasons to be upbeat. But, ultimately this will come down to winning. Minnesota’s core of talent had better blossom asap and get this team back to the playoffs. Logos and renovated arenas can only take a franchise so far…

• Baseball Gem:  My favorite MLB ballpark is Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. I was at the venue Monday when the A’s played the Royals in KC’s home opener. The 44 year old stadium has aged incredibly well. The facility – which underwent a $250 million makeover in 2009 and some more changes this past off-season – looks fabulous…

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium

Home of the Royals

• Bells and Whistles:  The K still has signature waterfalls and a gigantic Crown Vision scoreboard in deep CF. There is plenty of info on the video board, including the type of pitch that was just thrown. The ballpark’s unique architectural design sets it apart from others. The arching upper deck has jutting points at both ends. The K is a spectacular setting for baseball..

• Tale of the Gate:  A crowd of 40,019 showed up to see Oakland shutout Kansas City 2-0. Fans arrived early and many participated in pre-game tailgating that would make some NFL teams jealous. Of course, Arrowhead Stadium is located just south of The K and is part of the Truman Sports Complex. Tailgating before Chiefs games at Arrowhead is legendary – thanks to a parking lot that has a huge footprint with acres of blacktop…

• Panoramic Views:  The K has plenty of postcard sights. It never gets old seeing the ballpark’s immaculate, emerald green grass, the waterfalls and crown-shaped scoreboard. Beyond the ballpark is I-70, a concrete ribbon criss-crossing Mid-America…

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Within “The K”

• Sounds Good:  Royals broadcaster Steve Physioc is one of the top play by play guys in MLB. Physioc does an outstanding job painting the picture over the radio airwaves with his knowledge and commanding voice…

• Texas Tango:  After losing 2-0 to Dallas FC last week, Minnesota United returns to the Lone Star State for a match in Houston on Saturday night. The Loons (1 win, 1 draw, 4 losses) have scored 10 goals this season – fourth most in MLS. The Dynamo (3-0-2) is undefeated at home this season, winning all three of its matches at BBVA Compass Stadium…

• Meteoric Rise:  I wonder how CBS broadcasters feel about Tony Romo being hired as the network’s number one analyst with no experience in the booth? Guys like Dan Fouts and Rich Gannon were bypassed for the position, despite having been part of CBS broadcasts for many years…

• Wild Party: The Minnesota Wild are hosting a free pre-game party on Friday before Game 2 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. The event takes place at the Cleveland Circle parking lot near the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul…

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Scott Taylor

Wild Set to Open Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Scott Taylor

By Scott Taylor

Photos by James Carey Lauder and Jeff Miller

New York Rangers professional scout Tom Thompson has been around the game of hockey for more than 40 years. By his own admission, he’s probably seen it all.

However, if there is one thing that still stokes his fire every season, it’s the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) ,in NHL action at the MTS Centre,April 3 , 2014. JEFF MILLER PHOTO

“There is absolutely no doubt that the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is always the best,” said Thompson. “You have teams that finished high in the standings expecting to win against teams that were lucky to make the playoffs and now they have nothing to lose. The first round is always the toughest, the fastest, the closest and the most exciting. The first round is where the upsets happen. This is always hockey at its very best.”

And when we get started on Wednesday night, the 2017 Stanley Cup tournament should not disappoint. Especially here in Minnesota.

Devan Dubnyk (G) will be a key to the Wild’s playoff fortunes

The Wild have one of the best teams in the post-season tournament – despite that March swoon – and if they get the goaltending they need from Devan Dubnyk, should find themselves through to the second round and a date with their long-time nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks.

This should be a terrific two weeks. The defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins are back. The three-time Stanley Cup-winning Jonathan Toews version of the Chicago Blackhawks are favored in the West. The Alexander Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals just might be ready to snare their first Cup. While the aging San Jose Sharks will take a solid veteran lineup into the biggest tournament of the year against the upstart – and exciting – Edmonton Oilers.

The 2017 Stanley Cup Tournament begins on Wednesday, April 15 with 16 teams. In two months, only one will be standing.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty fired up….

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Chuck Foreman has Hall of Fame credentials

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By Eric Nelson
April 5, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Wheaties...

 

•Overdue Honor: It’s unbelievable that Chuck Foreman is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The greatest RB in Minnesota Vikings history has HOF stats and deserves to be part of the galaxy of stars in Canton, OH. It’s a miscarriage of NFL justice that Foreman hasn’t already been inducted into the Hall…

•NFL Trailblazer: Foreman was the first great multi-talented back in NFL history. He was a trend setter who paved the way for guys like Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk. Number 44 could run with power and speed, and could also catch the ball like a wideout. Foreman was remarkably gifted and his signature spin move made opponents dizzy. He was clearly one of the most exciting players in the 1970’s…

•Impressive Resume: Foreman’s career stats are comparable or better than other HOF backs such as Gale Sayers, Terrell Davis or Floyd Little. In eight seasons he ran for 5,950 yards, had 350 receptions for 3,156 yards and scored 76 touchdowns. Foreman also played in three Super Bowls and five Pro Bowls…

•Purple Apathy: Unfortunately the Vikings are not pushing Foreman for the HOF. This makes no sense and needs to change. Foreman was a key player on the outstanding Minnesota teams of the 1970’s. Without him the Vikings would not have made three Super Bowl trips in four years (1974, ’75 and ’77). Foreman’s impact on the Viking offense was huge and he elevated the play of Fran Tarkenton, Ahmad Rashad, Sammy White, Ron Yary and other Minnesota stars. It is mind-boggling that the Vikings do not promote him as a legitimate HOF candidate…

•Good Start: It’s only one game, and there are 161 left to play in a marathon regular season, but Minnesota’s 7-1 opening day win over Kansas City was a positive first step. The Twins had sputtering starts in 2015 (1-6) and 2016 (0-9), so any kind of positive mojo is good. The Twins had not won a season opener in nine years

•Ace-Like: P Ervin Santana was brilliant on the mound and got the win. Santana limited the Royals to just one run and two hits in seven innings. The Twins hope this is a precursor to the kind of season Santana is going to have…

•New Era: The LA Dodgers celebrated their 60th year in So Cal on Monday as they crushed San Diego 14-3. It also marked the beginning of the post-Vin Scully era. The legendary Scully retired last season and no longer vividly describes the action from the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth. According to the LA Times, Scully spent the day paying bills, going to the post office and washing his car…

•Singing the Blues: They would never admit it publicly, but my guess is that Minnesota would like to avoid St. Louis in round one of the NHL playoffs. Facing Blues coach Mike Yeo is a can’t win proposition for the Wild. As a higher seed Minnesota is expected to knock out St. Louis and it would be embarrassing to lose to Yeo – who was unceremoniously dumped by the Wild last season…

•Smart Move: NHL players will not be a part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. This was bound to happen and makes sense from the NHL’s standpoint. Why shutdown your product in the middle of the season for three weeks and subject players to possible injury on the Olympic stage? A lot of NHL players are unhappy with the decision, but it is logical from the owners perspective…

•Pioneer Spirit: Denver’s Jim Montgomery is the winner of the 2016-17 Spencer Penrose Award, presented annually to the Division I Men’s Hockey Coach of the Year. Montgomery is the first NCHC coach to win the honor in the conference’s four-year history. Denver (31-7-4) has the most wins in college hockey and has reached the Frozen Four in 2016 and 2017…

•Soccer Salute: Minnesota United finally cracked the win column. The Loons won their first-ever MLS game last week, knocking off Real Salt Lake 4-2 at TCF Bank Stadium. Christian Ramirez (two goals) and HC Adrian Heath were named to the MLS week 5 team of the week. Minn U (1 win, 1 draw, 3 losses) plays at Dallas (2-1-0) on Saturday night at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX…

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Greatest week in sports?

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By Larry Fitzgerald
April 4, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

It’s arguably the greatest week in sports. The cry of “play ball” is ringing across the United States with the boys of summer. Major League Baseball kicks off, all 30 teams, and in Minnesota the Twins open against the Kansas Royals at Target Field.

Last year, the Twins dropped 103 games, while the Royals have been in two of the last three World Series. The Twins play 162 games — baseball is indeed a marathon not a sprint.

The NCAA Men’s basketball championship game takes place this week as North Carolina 32-7 goes for their 6th National Championship against Gonzaga 37-1.

The Tar Heels lost last year’s title game to Villanova at the buzzer. They will try to do what Kentucky did in 1997-98, win the title after losing it the year before.

It’s also Masters week, the un-official beginning of the golf season. Due to back issues, Tiger Woods will miss the historic 20th anniversary of becoming the first Black man to win a major championship. He won the Masters by a record 12 shots.

Friday, April 7, is the 13th Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit (CFMF). The event is one of the biggest local happenings in Minneapolis, in honor of this journalist’s late wife and mother to Larry Fitgerald, Jr. and Marcus Fitzgerald.

Carol was a tireless Minnesota Department of health STD investigator. She had passion for caring and sharing and fighting for people. She died April 10, 2003 of breast cancer. Since that year, through the CFMF and Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund annual events, the Fitzgerald family has raised close to $2 million to benefit organizations locally and nationally that assist in HIV prevention, breast cancer awareness and urban education.

The sports-themed gala features NFL Man of the Year and 10-time Pro Bowl star Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. He is the first Minnesota-born athlete to win the Walter Payton award; he will be on-hand to sign autographs. Also, CFMF grants will be awarded to this year’s winning community organizations.

The event features a live and silent auction of incredible sports memorabilia. North Point Health & Wellness CEO Stella Whitney-West, one of Carol’s best friends, will be the keynote speaker, with Mike Phillips as the headline entertainer.

Phillips has played with Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder, and at the inaugural balls for both President Clinton and President Obama. It’s an incredible sports week highlighted by this annual event.

The 13th Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit Gala takes place Friday, April 7, at the Minneapolis Event Center, 212 SE 2nd St., Minneapolis. All proceeds go to the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit. Call 612-770-4575 for more information.

On Saturday, April 8 from 12 to 3 pm, community members are invited to the 13th Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Community Celebration at Martin Luther King Center, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis. For tickets call 612-619-0102.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Four teams desert-bound for Final Four

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By Larry Fitzgerald
March 30, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

Over the years I’ve grown very fond of Arizona with so many golf courses and resorts, and between November and March you can get away from the stress that goes with winter and the bad weather. Arizona is the spring home of 15 of Major League Baseball’s training sites in Tempe, Scottsdale, Tucson, Mesa and Phoenix from February to April — MLB baseball from sun up to sun down virtually all over the state.

Father & Son at the Final 4 ..North Carolina and Gonzaga reach the final…

Arizona is loaded with things to do, and it’s crowded this week, Sunday, March 26 through Wednesday, with the NFL Annual Spring Owners meetings at the historic Biltmore Resort where many presidents and royalty and the elite have stayed over the years when they are in town. The owners are expected to vote on the Oakland Raiders’ proposed move to (Sin City) Las Vegas.

If Oakland were to receive approval of the league, they would be the third NFL team in 12 months to move. Previously, the Rams left St. Louis for Los Angeles and the Chargers left San Diego for Los Angeles.

The National Hockey League just placed an expansion franchise in Las Vegas. For professional sports, this is the first time. The controversial move appears to open the door for potential issues and problems related to gambling.

This weekend’s NCAA Men’s Final Four is set for Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. Four of the best basketball teams in the nation and their fans are making plans for the Final Four.

The NCAA Men’s Final Four features North Carolina, the Tar Heels, in their record 20th Final Four. With just two number-one seeds remaining, North Carolina, with their remarkable history and rich tradition, are clearly the favorite. Close your eyes and just think for a minute if South Carolina, the clear Cinderella of the four teams, found a way to first beat Gonzaga and then North Carolina.

The other number-one seed, Gonzaga (36-1), at the Final Four for the first time, has one of the country’s strongest basketball programs but never a Final Four. They were the country’s last unbeaten team and were ranked number one in the nation for several weeks.

South Carolina, another first-time Final Four team, knocked off Duke early and have remained hot and focused. Oregon (33-5) from the Pac 12 have had a remarkable season. This is the first Final Four for the Ducks since 1939. That was the year the NCAA tournament began, long before the theme of March Madness.

Again, the players play, and as exciting as this is for CBS, TBS, TNT, the sponsors and the NCAA, fans and media alike, the reality is this: Only the coaches get rewarded financially.

Roy Williams of North Carolina gets $5 million a year as Tar Heels coach plus another $200,000 for getting his team to the Final Four and $250,000 if the Tar Heels win. Frank Martin of South Carolina makes $2.5 million per year. He is getting a $100,000 bonus for getting his team to their first Final Four. If he wins the title he gets another $200,000.

In the middle of all the excitement, look at this system of amateurism which the NCAA exploits. This is grossly unfair to the hard-working players, and it’s been this way for far too long.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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