The Apple Falls Far From The Family Tree

Louie Nanne Steps Out Of His Famous Grandfather’s Shadow To Make A Name For Himself In Upstate New York
David Levine

Louie Nanne is looking to make a name for himself in Troy, N.Y.Louie Nanne is looking to make a name for himself in Troy, N.Y.

Mention the name Lou Nanne to older hockey fans and the first word to cross their minds most likely would be “Minnesota.”

Nanne has been an integral part of Minnesota hockey for more than half a century, from star player with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to player, coach and general manager of the NHL’s North Stars to four decades of broadcasting high school games.

Now 73, it’s safe to say that Nanne has touched almost everything puck-related in the Gopher State since he arrived, from Canada, in 1960.

So what is Lou Nanne doing playing for a college team called the Engineers, in upstate New York?

Actually, that would be Louie Nanne, Lou’s 20-year-old grandson, who, with his grandfather’s blessing, took their famous name out of the state that reveres it and to an area where most of his teammates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have no clue about its storied past.

“I don’t think any of the players from outside Minnesota, or certainly outside the U.S., have any idea of the Nanne name or the significance of his grandfather,” says RPI head coach Seth Appert, himself a Minnesota native.

“That name is larger than life in the state. It’s a name comparable to Gretzky or Orr.”

“...growing up I didn’t know the extent of what [his name] meant. I had to Google ‘Lou Nanne’ to find out what he did.”

That’s something young Louie had to learn on his own.

“My family is very humble and down to earth, and growing up I didn’t know the extent of what [his name] meant,” he says. “I had to Google ‘Lou Nanne’ to find out what he did.”

What he found was that his grandfather, who became a U.S. citizen in 1968, has one of the most impressive resumes in U.S. hockey history: All-American, league MVP and scoring champion at the U of M. Captain of the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team. Captain of two U.S. National teams. Assistant captain of Team USA at the 1976 Canada Cup. A 24-year career with the North Stars. Winner of the prestigious Lester Patrick Award in 1980 for his service to hockey in the United States.

That name came with some advantages for Louie.

“It got me into the Minnesota Wild locker room and games,” he says.

But those blessings come with some curses. As he entered high school, in Edina, the taunting began to get to him.

“I heard it every time I stepped onto the rink – people said I only made the team due to my name,” he said. “I was always known as Lou Nanne’s grandson, never Louie.”

It got so bad he even thought about changing his first name. Still, when the time came, he committed to playing for the Gophers.

“Growing up in Minnesota, it’s every player's dream to throw on the maroon and gold,” he admits.
“Both my grandfather and father [Martin Nanne] played there, and I thought being the third generation would be cool. But as time went on, I realized it would be awful.”

He came to that realization during his two years away from home when he played Junior hockey in British Columbia and with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL.

“That was my first time out of Minnesota, and I really found myself,” he says. “I loved the Louie I got to know. I was no longer in my grandfather’s shadow. People got to know me for who I was. It dawned on me that I didn’t want to be in Minnesota anymore. I had to do something else.”

He called Gophers head coach Don Lucia first and decommitted.

“Then I freaked,” he says.

He didn’t know how to tell his family. Turns out, he didn’t have to. Louie doesn’t know how his grandfather found out, but “I got a call from him no more than five minutes after I told Coach Lucia,” Louie says. “I had thought about turning my phone off, but he called before I could.”
His fears were instantly allayed.

“I told him that’s great, I couldn’t be happier,” says grandpa Lou, who, ironically, was also recruited by RPI. “I said, whatever makes you happy makes me happy.”

His grandfather Lou is among the most well-known hockey people in both Minnesota and around the country.His grandfather Lou is among the most well-known hockey people in both Minnesota and around the country.

“It was the exact opposite of what I expected,” Louie says. He later learned that both his father and grandfather had wanted this for him all along, but they wanted him to make the decision for himself.
When he told Appert – who had coached Nanne at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech

Republic – of his decision, Appert responded, “I lost you once, I’m not gonna lose you again. It’s unusual to coach a recruit at a high level, playing for your country, so I knew firsthand how important he was, how he helps you win and helps the culture of the program beyond the stats.”

A biomedical engineering major with eyes on a career in medicine, Nanne chose RPI for both its hockey and academics. He even took a calculus course over the summer with other incoming freshman to prepare for the rigorous workload. On the ice, Nanne was among RPI’s scoring leaders in early December.
Drafted by – who else? – the Minnesota Wild, he has pro-level skating and shooting skills, says grandpa.

“He’s a real smart player, very coachable, hard working, he’ll never cheat you,” the elder Nanne says. “I was broadcasting the state high school finals and talking to his coach [former NHL player Curt Giles] before the game. During warm-ups, I told Louie to work hard. Curt said, ‘Why would you ask him to work hard? Nobody ever works harder.’”

His weakness?

“My confidence,” Louie says. “I’m not a very confident person, partly due to my name and all the stuff growing up.”

That will certainly grow over time, especially as he makes a name for himself in his new home.

“He gets to be his own young man out here,” Appert says. “Louie Nanne gets to be whoever he wants to be.”




David Levine is a freelance writer from Albany, N.Y.
Photos By Kris Qua; RPI Athletics; Getty Images


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