Patrick Reusse
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We traded in a franchise in the eight-team NBA in April 1960, with the Minneapolis Lakers moving to Los Angeles, and then received the Twins in the new 10-team American League and the expansion Vikings in a 14-team NFL in 1961.

Then, Minnesota was among the six teams that doubled the size of the NHL for the 1967-68 season, with the North Stars playing in the rapidly constructed Met Center.

The Gophers also competed for attention in football, basketball and hockey — meaning men's, since the slow growth of investment in women's team sports did not start until the Title IX amendments in 1972.

These were times that, other than with the Vikings, a large majority of games were not on television and the radio play-by-play guys became the "Voice of" team.

We had very popular "Voice ofs" here in the Twin Cities — Ray Scott and Herb Carneal with the Twins, Ray Christensen with the Gophers. Halsey Hall was popular as a side character, for decades with the Gophers and then for 13 years with the Twins.

Yet, no one since the Twin Cities started the ascent to a full-service, big-time sports market has had as much to do with the good feeling about a team as has Al Shaver, the one and only Voice of the North Stars.

He arrived with the team in 1967, and he chose not to follow the untrusted Norm Green to Dallas after the 1993 season, choosing instead to do three years of Gophers hockey with Glen Sonmor as a sidekick.

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On Wednesday, Shaver's family released the news their father to five children — and grandfather to nine, great-grandfather to 11 and great-great-grandad to two (with another on the way) — had died Monday at age 96, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Dave Mona, who went from sports writing to public relations, and also moonlighted as Sid Hartman's partner for 2½ hours on Sunday mornings for 39½ years on the Big Neighbor (WCCO-830), was asked Wednesday if he shared my assessment of Shaver's premier standing among our sports radio voices.

"Agreed," he said by text. "I was going to mention Halsey, but it's the difference between best actor and supporting actor."

Lou Nanne, with the North Stars in different capacities for 23 of their 26 seasons, was asked to name someone who didn't think Al Shaver was a great guy.

"That's a good question," Nanne said. "If I run into someone like that, I'll let you know. So far it hasn't happened.

"A lot of announcers try to win fans over by only saying good things about their team. Al didn't do that. If we were playing bad, he'd say so. A few times, when I was general manager, I considered going to him: 'We're trying to sell tickets. Can't you say we're playing good, exciting hockey?'

"But I didn't do it, because Al was always right. And our fans loved him for all things as an announcer, including his honesty."

Tom Reid, Minnesota's co-godfather of hockey with Nanne, was asked the same question, about Al's enemy list. He stretched his memory and came up with one.

"We were standing outside of the hotel in Los Angeles, waiting for the team bus," Reid said. "This guy came along carrying a big box. Al thought that was kind of funny and asked, 'Hey, sir, what's in the box?'

"And the guy told Al it was none of his business, with profanity included. So, there's the one guy I know that didn't like Al Shaver."

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Bob Kurtz and Reid were the radio team for the Wild and on trips to Vancouver would take the ferry to Qualicom City on the island to visit the Shavers, Al and his beloved bride, Shirley.

"One time we got there, Al was in a community play," Reid said. "He didn't know we were in the audience. It was great to see him up there. strutting around, hamming it up."

Al wasn't much of a drinker. "He made up for it with his love of food," Nanne said. "If we were home and then in Chicago a day later, Al would drive rather than fly with us, in order to stop in that German restaurant in Milwaukee."

Karl Ratzsch's? "That was it," Nanne said.

There were yarns flying from various sources Wednesday, including from a member of the North Stars' traveling party who was young and single, and on a West Coast trip that went from L.A. to Vancouver.

He had met a lady in L.A. who was equally single and of Irish descent, delaying his arrival in Vancouver by a day or two. Observant as he was, Shaver noted this individual's absence and asked around.

The young man arrived the night before the game and checked into the team hotel. At 6 a.m., the phone rang in his room and the voice on the other end was Shaver, the greatest Minnesota sports voice of all-time, serenading with that classic, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."

That was Al Shaver to a tee, always willing to enjoy another person's happiness.