If there is anyone who understands the love Minnesota has for hockey it is Anthony LaPanta.
LaPanta, 43, a long-time Fox Sports North veteran, was introduced as the Wild's television play-by-play announcer Tuesday. His Minnesota roots and experience both as a hockey dad and as a hockey broadcaster helped him earn the job.
LaPanta knows about fans' passion, too. Reaction to news of his promotion, which leaked days ago, was extremely passionate.
Most of it was negative. There was a backlash on websites about LaPanta taking over for Dan Terhaar, who worked the FSN telecasts for seven seasons.
There are many things LaPanta can -- and, he said, will -- control: how hard he prepares, the energy he brings to the job. But the recent fan reaction is one thing he can't control.
"I don't feel the need to win anybody over," he said. "I like to think my performance will speak for itself. I feel the opinions you have some impact over are the people you work with on a daily basis and the people for whom you work. I feel those who know me know how passionate I am about what I do, how hard I work to prepare."
FSN executive defends hire
The hiring was a collaborative process between the Wild and FSN. Mike Dimond, FSN senior vice president and general manager, called the process "fairly extensive."
As for the reaction? Dimond said he appreciated how much the fans cared about the team and the position being filled, though he felt some of the comments were "out of bounds."
"That's the great thing about our state, the passion for Wild hockey," Dimond said. "People care about it; we care about it, too. ... We stand by our hire. We think Anthony will do a great job."
The Star Tribune reported Monday that, surprised by the negative feedback, the Wild and FSN held off on an announcement to discuss the backlash and how best to manage it. But at no time was their decision on LaPanta going to change.
John Maher, the Wild's vice president for brand marketing, said having a local connection was important to the team. "Being able to have a Minnesota guy who is a hockey guy was icing on the cake," Maher said. Maher also praised the fans' intense interest but said that LaPanta was the guy they wanted. "Anthony is our man."
For LaPanta, the job is one he has wanted since he was a boy growing up listening to Al Shaver call North Stars games. "To have the opportunity to do NHL play-by-play, in my own home state? It's literally a dream come true," he said.
LaPanta, who graduated from Totino-Grace High School and St. John's University, has been part of the local sports scene for nearly 20 years. He has hosted pre- and post-game shows for the Twins, Wild and Timberwolves games since 2004.
LaPanta called Gophers hockey games on FSN the past two seasons. Before joining FSN, he was the TV voice of the St. Paul Saints for 10 seasons. In 1999 he did radio play-by-play for the Twins at a time when Herb Carneal was not going on road trips.
LaPanta has won four regional Emmy Awards, two for play-by-play.
"He knows the culture of hockey in this state," Dimond said. "He's also been around the Wild for eight years, so he has relationships with people there. Plus, he's a good play-by-play man. He's had experience at all levels."
LaPanta will have one-year deal
LaPanta, who signed a one-year deal, will work with Mike Greenlay, who has been the TV analyst the past 10 seasons. The radio team of Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid, along with producer and host Kevin Falness, will return as well.
LaPanta and his wife, Margo, have four children.
LaPanta's move to the Wild means a search has begun for the person who will call Gophers games on FSN this coming season. Dimond said that search is in its early stages, and that he couldn't yet give a short list of candidates. There is a chance some of the candidates who were looked at for the Wild job could be considered for the Gophers job.
But there is at least a little uncertainty about the future of the school's hockey TV broadcasts, given the upcoming inauguration of a Big Ten hockey conference for the 2013-14 season. Presumably, the Big Ten Network will have a role in televising hockey games, though it remains to be seen how extensive that will be.