Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Former Twin Cities Sportscaster Boyle Passes Away

He was a familiar face and voice to Twin Cities sports fans back when KARE 11 was WTCN-TV and an independent station broadcasting the Twins, North Stars and state high school tournaments.

Joe Boyle, who was the sports director for Channel 11 passed away in Arizona at the age of 84.

Boyle had a variety of tasks at the station where the studios were in the Calhoun Beach Manor in Minneapolis before moving into its current home in Golden Valley in 1973.  He was the station's sports director who was seen on the nightly 9:30 newscasts, hosted the post game scoreboard show following Twins and North Stars games and did the play-by-play for the state high school and basketball tournaments until the station became an NBC affiliate in 1979 and lost the rights to the hockey tournament to KSTP-TV and the basketball tournament went to then newly independent KMSP.

In addition to the scoreboard shows, Boyle also was the color commentator and later play-by-play voice for the North Stars.  He would also replace Larry Calton on the station's Twins telecasts midway through the 1975 season and continue in that capacity until 1978.  He would be joined in the TV booth in 1976 by one of the greatest players in Twins history, Harmon Killebrew.  Boyle would also handle play-by-play for the station's coverage of University of Minnesota basketball and hockey.

In 1972, Boyle would call the action when the station carried the inaugural state football finals.  Channel 11 carried both the Class A and AA championship games that were played at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis.  He also did the station's coverage of the 1974 Class AA football final between Bloomington Jefferson and Rochester John Marshall.

After WTCN became an NBC affiliate in 1979, Boyle would leave the station and become a freelance broadcaster.  Later that year, he would call a college basketball game for ESPN where his color man would become one of the best known personalities on the network, Dick Vitale.  Vitale is still bringing his flair and enthusiasm to ESPN's college basketball coverage.

Boyle's legacy lives on.  His son Mark, a 1975 graduate of St. Louis Park High School begins his 30th season as the radio voice of the Indiana Pacers.  Back in the days when Channel 11 was an independent, Boyle was a familiar voice to high school sports, Twins and North Stars fans in the 70s.  May he rest in peace.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Practice Begins for 2017-18 Fall Sports Season

It's a sign that summer is winding down.

A time where footballs, soccer balls and volleyballs come out of storage as high school athletes throughout Minnesota begin practice for the upcoming fall sports season on Monday, August 14.

In St. Louis Park, the fall sports season kicks off on Tuesday, August 22 as the girls tennis team hosts the Shakopee Sabers at 10 AM. Two days later on the 24th, the Oriole soccer teams begin their 2017 campaign as the boys try to improve on a three win season last year when they host the Hopkins Royals at 5 PM.  They stay for the varsity girls opener against the Royals at 7 PM.

Also in action on the 24th is the girls swimming and diving team as they participate in the opening conference meet at Richfield Middle School.  The girls volleyball team opens their season at 7 PM in Plymouth against the Armstrong Falcons.

As for the Oriole football team, they open the 2017 season on Thursday, August 31 hosting the Bloomington Kennedy Eagles at 7 PM.

Over by Highway 100, the defending Class AAAA champion Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights opens their season on Friday, September 1 when they host the Waconia Wildcats at 7 PM.  The defending Class A champion girls soccer team opens their season on Saturday, August 26 at 5 PM against the Breck Mustangs and travels to Maplewood on the 29th to take on the Hill-Murray Pioneers at 7 PM.  Their home opener is on the 31st when they host the Blake Bears at 5 PM.  The boys soccer team opens their season on Friday the 25th with a home game against the Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers at 5 PM.

Get ready for exciting fall high school sports action following the first day of practice on the14th.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stead to End 31 Year Run as MSHSL Executive Director

Dave Stead who has been the Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School League since 1988 will be stepping down after 30 years, effective February 1, 2018.  

Stead will be transitioning into a senior staff position with the MSHSL.

Under Stead's guidance, the league has gone from a two class basketball tournament to a four class affair, baseball and softball have also gone to four classes, hockey has gone to two classes and volleyball to three.  Stead has also been behind the expansion of the Prep Bowl to a two day event to accommodate seven classes.

He has also been behind the addition of girls hockey and adapted athletics that include soccer, floor hockey, softball and bowling.  Also added in Stead's tenure have been robotics, boys and girls lacrosse and clay target.

On the media side, Stead was also instrumental in KSTC-TV's relationship with the league.  The station carries the boys and girls hockey and basketball tournaments and the Prep Bowl.  He was also behind the use of instant replay in football, basketball and hockey state tournament games, the first state in the country to do so.

There have also been academic awards programs such as the Academic, Arts and Athletic Awards and the EXCEL Awards.

A lot has been accomplished during Stead's tenure with the league.  The best of luck to Stead as he vacates his post in February as he oversees his final Prep Bowl.  He will be a tough man to replace.

Monday, July 31, 2017

One Year Ago, A Blog Was Born

Monday, July 31 marks the one year anniversary of the day HSGN went online as a new resource in high school sports and game shows.

HSGN began after, the website the creator of this blog wrote since January 2011 went out of business, leaving him a bit distraught.  Over the last six years as a high school sports examiner, many state tournaments were attended without buying a ticket and acquaintances were made as well as the opportunity to interview athletes, coaches, tournament personnel and fellow media members.  But on July 10, folded and it gave an opportunity to continue writing on his own.  So that gave to the birth of HSGN.

The focus was very similar to what was written for and also included college and professional sports.  Also included were stories about game shows past and present to broaden the scope of material for HSGN.

Over the inaugural year, HSGN still covered the Prep Bowl and the state basketball and hockey tournaments.  There were also stories about St, Louis Park High School and Groves Academy games that the creator also does the public address announcing.  In september, HSGN took a drive to Woodbury to cover the Homecoming game between the East Ridge Raptors and the Woodbury Royals and do an interview with the Raptors top running back who will now be playing for new Minnesota Golden Gopher head coach P.J. Fleck, Dominick London.

Another road trip took place in November when HSGN covered the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights Class AAAA state quarterfinal football game at Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom.  The Red Knights would go on to win their first state title with wins over Marshall and Winona.

Basketball and hockey were hot topics in a cold winter for HSGN.  In addition to St. Louis Park hockey and Groves Academy basketball, there was coverage of the Breakdown Tip Off Classic at Hopkins High School in December and plenty of state tournament coverage in March that also included the DeLaSalle Islanders sixth straight Class AAA title.  Following the state tournament, head coach Dave Thorson resigned to become an assistant coach at Drake University in Des Moines, IA.  He was replaced by former Islander Travis Bledsoe.  HSGN was also present to cover one of the most memorable state boys hockey championship games when the Hermantown Hawks beat the Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake Moose in double overtime to win their second consecutive state Class A title.  It was also the final state title for Hawks head coach Bruce Plante as he retired after a long career at the Twin Ports high school.
As the weather got warmer and athletes starting playing outside, HSGN was on hand for St. Louis Park lacrosse and baseball.  The creator also made his debut as the PA voice for Oriole baseball for the first time since he started announcing at the school in 1995.

In addition, there were historical pieces on game shows, such as the 50th anniversary of Hollywood Squares' debut and the 60th anniversary of the birth of a show that became a bigger hit in it's revival, The Price is Right.

What lies ahead for HSGN in Year Two?  Staying with it's mission in covering high school sports as well as writing about other levels of competition and game shows.  There's a lot more to come once fall sports practice begins August 14.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Two New Head Coaches in Girls High School Hockey

Next season, there will be a couple of new head coaches in Minnesota girls high school hockey.

The first is Shjon Podein, who will be the new head coach at Benilde-St. Margaret's, replace Dave Herbst, who stepped down following last season.

Podein, who played 11 years in the NHL is no stranger to the St. Louis Park athletic scene.  From 2011 to 2013, he was the head boys hockey coach for the St. Louis Park Orioles but he resigned after two years to spend more time with his family.

The other new coach is Randy Koeppl, who will take over the Holy Family/Waconia Wildfire.

Koeppl, a graduate of Bloomington Jefferson was a goalie on the Jaguars 1992 and 1993 state championship teams, alternating with Jeff Heil.  He also was a youth coach in the Eden Prairie association and recently served as an assistant at Hopkins High School under another former Jaguar, Cory Peterson.

There were many other coaching changes according to Let's Play Hockey but these were some of the new program leaders.

Original Twins Broadcaster Passes Away

Bob Wolff, who has been on the air for 78 years, including a stint with the Minnesota Twins died July 15 at the age of 96.

HHe began his career in 1339 while he was a student at Duke University, working at the campus radio station.  He worked for the CBS station in Durham, NC before becoming the broadcast voice of the Washington Senators in 1947. Wolff remained with the team until they moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961.

Wolff was part of the Twins original broadcast team that included Ray Scott and Halsey Hall.  They all worked both radio and TV.  Wolff would leave the Twins following their inaugural season to go to NBC's Game of the Week coverage and also the Madison Square Garden Network.  He would be replaced by a man who would eventually be the Voice of the Twins for 44 years, Herb Carneal.

When Wolff called baseball at NBC, his sidekick, in his first stint with the network was Joe Garagiola.  Prior to joining NBC, he did the play-by-play for Mutual's Game of the day that also included the 1956 World Series.  Wolff was behind the mike when Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history that year.

In his long tenure with Madison Square Garden, he broadcast many events, including the Knicks on WOR-TV in New York and the Rangers and was also the long time voice of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show that has aired for years on the USA Network.  He also broadcast horse shows, tennis, boxing, bowling and boxing.

Wolff also broadcast football and was the network radio voice for the classic 1958 NFL Championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts.

Before concluding his record setting career, Wolff worked for News 12 Long Island.  He was also the author of the book Bob Wolff's Complete Guide to Sportscasting, which was published in 2011.

A long running and versatile voice that has entertained and informed fans for almost eight decades has gone silent.  Though he didn't work for a team longer than Vin Scully with the Dodgers, Wolff has had a long and storied career well into his 90s.  May he rest in peace.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

At the Halfway Point of the 2017 Baseball Season

Following the Detroit-Cleveland game Sunday night, the 2017 baseball season will pause for the All Star Break.  Here are some highlights and lowlights of the season's first half as well as the potential playoff picture if the season ended.
                                              AMERICAN LEAGUE
Best team:  Astros  They already have 60 wins going into the All Star Break and the league's best record.  Despite losing ace Dallas Keuchel to a neck injury, they have a very solid lineup anchored by the middle infield duo of second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa. Add an excellent leadoff hitter in George Springer and they have a very solid team.  Can they sustain the excellence of the first half into October?  

Surprise Team: Twins.  Last season, the Twins lost a franchise record 103 games.  This season, the Twins have been in and out of first place are three games behind the AL Central  Indians.  They have a pretty good lineup with Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Max Kepler and the emergence of Byron Buxton after a slow start has kept the Twins in contention.  But they really need pitching help.  The bullpen has been going like the revolving door at the IDS Center but there have been bright spots in set up man Trevor Rogers and closer Brandon Kintzler.  Will the addition of Bartolo Colon help the Twins pitching staff or be their downfall?  It could give them a potential wild card berth.  

Disappointing Team:  Blue Jays. After two seasons in the playoffs, the Blue Jays got off to a slow start due to the injury to Josh Donaldson and are currently at the bottom of the AL East. The loss of Edwin Encarnacion to the Indians via free agency left Canada's team without a big bat in the lineup.  On the pitching side, the departure of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Braves left a gap in the rotation.  Will the Blue Jays buy or sell before the trading deadline?  

Rookie of the Year:  Aaron Judge, Yankees. Not only could Judge win the Rookie of the Year award unanimously, he could also merit consideration for AL MVP.  He broke a 81 year old rookie record for home runs that was set by Joe DiMaggio in 1936 that's now at 30 and he's been the key to the Yankees contending in the AL East.  Can Number 99 be Number One in post season voting?  

Cy Young Winner:  Chris Sale, Red Sox.  There is joy this season in Red Sox Nation following the acquisition of Sale in the offseason.  He has given the Red Sox pitching depth and power to a deep and potent lineup.
                                               NATIONAL LEAGUE
Best Team:  Dodgers.  The Dodgers have baseball's best record by .004 percentage points over the Astros and they have broken open a tight NL West race that also included the Diamondbacks and Rockies.  Their pitching has been the key with Clayton Kershaw picking up his 14th win Sunday with Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda also contributed to the team's success.  They also have a solid infield with Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Bellinger who has 25 home runs, Corey Seager at third base and Justin Turner at shortstop.  Bellinger has been playing first with Adrian Gonzalez on the disabled list.  They look like a team that could be playing well into October.

Surprise Team:  Brewers.  Since their last trip to the playoffs in 2001, the Brewers have finished third twice and fourth three times in the NL Central.  They have had success without Ryan Braun, who was isdelined due to an injury and got production from Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana.  But the biggest surprise has been Eric Thames who leads the team with 23 home runs, including 11 in April.    In the pitching department, Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson have anchored the starters and Corey Knebel leads the team with 13 saves.  Can the Brewers stay on top or will the Cubs overtake them to earn a return trip to the postseason.

Disappointing team:  Giants.  After ending their run of even year titles last season, the Giants hit bottom with the loss of Madison Bumgarner due to a dirt bike accident in April.  Since moving from New York after the 1957 season, the Giants only season where they lost 100 games was 1985.  Can they avoid their first 100 loss season in 32 years.

Most Valuable Player:  Take your pick.  Bryce Harper of the Nationals or Kershaw.  Both have been the keys to their team's success this season and the voting should be close.

Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer, Nationals.  It could be a two way race at the end of the season between Kershaw and Scherzer but for first half Cy Young, Scherzer would win by a close margin.  He has been very consistent in strikeout totals so far this season.

                                                   IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY
                                        Here's what the playoff pairings would look like:

                                                      AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card:  Yankees vs. Rays
ALDS:  Astros vs. Wild Card Winner
              Red Sox vs. Indians
                                                     NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card:  Rockies vs. Diamondbacks
NLDS:  Dodgers vs. Brewers
             Nationals vs. Wild Card Winner