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Sweet Lou from the Soo
E.M. Swift
October 12, 1981
Lou Nanne, Minnesota's general manager, is a lousy poet, but his savvy and salesmanship have made the club a contender. Many think he should be running the NHL
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October 12, 1981

Sweet Lou From The Soo

Lou Nanne, Minnesota's general manager, is a lousy poet, but his savvy and salesmanship have made the club a contender. Many think he should be running the NHL

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I still marvel at the ease with which the Isles roll,
Standing proud and erect like a telephone pole;
But give me one chance to stick my spurs in you,
And I'll be at the top of that pole, and you'll be through.
So here's to the meeting we both want to see,
Something I've dreamed—you against me.

When Torrey and Nanne did, indeed, meet in the finals, the dream ended; the Islanders were far superior. Still, just to be sure, the cagey Torrey refused to exchange any more poems with Nanne.

"I'd gotten him that far, and I wasn't going to carry him anymore," says Torrey. New York won the first three games of the series and clinched the Cup in the fifth. The loss in Game 4 came after Torrey's resolve weakened. The producers of Hockey Night in Canada cajoled Torrey into one last session of versifying, which would be aired before the game. Torrey, who dresses like a prep school Latin teacher (he's called Billy Bow Tie), got roasted. Wrote Nanne:

Here you are on Hockey Night in Canada and the USA Network, too
At least you could dress up like Sweet Lou,
Go to your clothier and tell him you'd like to buy
A new blazer and slacks and especially a full tie.

Torrey, assuming an above-the-fray air, doesn't feel compelled to defend his wardrobe. "Louie's a TV personality," he says. "I'm not. I don't have that nice Italian profile, and I haven't had a nose job."

Nanne claims the operation was to improve a deviated septum so he could breathe properly, but Brooks's wife, Patti, for one, doesn't buy his story. "I told him he couldn't fool me," she says. "Somebody else would do these things and you'd retch, but Louie can get away with them."

The hair transplants—three of them—were all tax deductible because Nanne was doing TV commercials for a local savings and loan. He also gives motivational speeches to Honeywell recruits. "I tell my players it's important to have identification with the fans so they know you as a person," he says. "Players have no idea how many opportunities are waiting out there for them."

Nanne also believes that you create your own opportunities, which is just what he did this summer. He traded the North Stars' first-round draft choice, a so-so defenseman named Greg Smith, and rights to Don Murdoch, a one-way wing who has had a troublesome off-ice lifestyle, to Detroit for the Red Wings' No. 1 draft choice in 1982. Since Detroit promises to maintain its position as one of the worst teams in hockey, the trade put Nanne in the Brian Bellows Derby (page 42). At the very least it would seem to assure Nanne one of the top five or six players in what promises to be an exceptional year in the draft. He gave up two players who likely wouldn't help his club for a shot at a superstar. Unlike most hockey G.M.s, Nanne knows you don't build around so-so players and head cases. You build around stars and then find team players to fill supporting roles. "It ruined my weekend when I heard what Louie did," says Torrey.

In spite of their almost daily conversations by phone, Nanne and Torrey have never struck a deal. Says Torrey, "If you get your pocket picked by someone with a nice personality or a gorilla, it doesn't really matter. You still lose your wallet. When Louie first became a G.M. a lot of people thought, 'He's a nice guy, I'll talk to him.' Well, now that he's fleeced a few G.M.s, he's going to find it a lot harder to deal the second time around."

Says Brooks, "If Louie wants to deal with the Rangers, I'm going to keep my hands in my back pockets and say, 'O.K., Louie, start talking.' "

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