Staff Directory 10644611

Joe Christensen

Sports enterprise reporter | General assignment
Phone: 612-673-7844
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Joe Christensen, a Star Tribune’s sports team leader, graduated from the University of Minnesota and spent 15 years covering Major League Baseball, including stops at the Riverside Press-Enterprise and Baltimore Sun. He joined the Star Tribune in 2005 and spent four years covering Gophers football.


The National Sports Media Association named Christensen as the 2003 Maryland Sportswriter of the Year and 2014 Minnesota Sportswriter of the Year.
Recent content from Joe Christensen
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Will beating Wisconsin clinch a Rose Bowl berth for Gophers? Yes, but ...

If the Gophers defeat Wisconsin, will that clinch at least a Rose Bowl berth for Minnesota, with a trip to the College Football Playoff still in the cards? Here's what will happen if Minnesota wins.
The Gophers celebrated after defeating Wisconsin 37-15 last year in Madison.

Badgers favored over Gophers for Big Ten West title showdown

The early betting lines have Wisconsin favored by a field goal over Minnesota.
Captain of the University of Minnesota Bruce Smith, left, receives the Heisman trophy from Joseph R. Taylor of the Downtown Athletic Club in New York,

Showdown Could Stir Stadium Village's Ghosts

Bruce Smith emerged as a national star with his performance for the No. 2 Gophers vs. No. 3 Michigan in 1940.
Mike Hebert worked with his players during practice in 2009.

'Mentor, friend, teacher.' Players mourn coach who made U volleyball big

Mike Hebert led the U to three Final Four appearances and made the NCAA tournament 14 times in 15 seasons before retiring in 2010. "He wasn't just a coach," a former player said.
Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (11) celebrated after intercepting a first-quarter pass from Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan on Saturday.

Gophers climb to No. 17 in AP poll, highest ranking since 2004

The Gophers moved up three spots in the AP poll and four spots in the coaches' poll following a rout over Rutgers.
Right fielder Aaron Judge let out a yell after reeling in a sixth-inning drive off the bat of Miguel Sano, keeping the Twins from scoring — one of s

Yankees flash some excellent leather to throttle Twins' offense

The Yankees didn't just use majestic home runs to bounce the Twins from the postseason this time. Aaron Boone's squad did the little things well, too.
University of St. Thomas head football coach Glenn Caruso celebrated with his team after defeating St. John's in 2017 at Target Field.

St. Thomas wants to go Division I, gets invitation to Summit League

The University of St. Thomas made clear Friday that it intends to turn Division I in athletics, less than five months after being involuntarily removed from the Division III MIAC.
Gov. Tim Walz at last month's inauguration of University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel. Walz on Tuesday said he is “certainly willing to look at

Walz 'willing to look' at allowing college athletes to hire agents

Gov. Tim Walz's comments came after California's governor signed a law scheduled to take effect in 2023, allowing college athletes to profit from their names and likenesses.
The website SwimSwam.com reported that Gophers swimmers Max McHugh, left, and teammate Nick Saulnier sustained “non-life-threatening injuries and ar

All-America Gophers swimmer McHugh suffers gunshot wound

Max McHugh's father confirmed his son (left), one of the nation's top breaststrokers, was hurt. Also reported wounded by SwimSwam.com was McHugh's teammate, Nick Saulnier.
Sara Groenewegen has returned from a serious illness to lead Team Canada in the Pan-Am Games.

Former U softball star Groenewegen returns from coma to lead Canada

Last July, pitcher Sara Groenewegen spent 10 days in a medically induced coma, battling legionnaire's disease, a severe form of pneumonia.
The Gophers drew an announced crowd of 8,238 for their Feb. 1 game against Michigan, though the actual turnout was smaller.

Gophers cut some season ticket prices for men's hockey, men's basketball

The U's athletic department announced that season tickets for men's basketball will start at $340, the lowest price since the 1995-96 season
Texas Tech fans cheered as their team beat Michigan State 61-51.

'Old Town road' song has Raiders rocking

Red Raiders players have been blaring the Lil Nas X rap song for weeks, before and after victories, and it's become a theme song for fans, too.
Texas Tech's Tariq Owens injured his ankle during the second half in the semifinals

Texas Tech defensive stopper Owens could be limited in title game

Coach Chris Beard said Tariq Owens was "pretty sore" after spraining his ankle in the semifinals but that he expects him to play Monday.
Daquein McNeil was found not guilty Friday.

Former Gopher Daquein McNeil found not guilty of first-degree murder

Once-promising U basketball player waited nearly two years for a verdict in Baltimore.

NCAA considering a change to graduate-transfer rule, which would make them less desirable

The proposed change to the graduate-transfer rule would put colleges on the hook for a two-year scholarship commitment, instead of just one season.
Izzo said he hears those who say his legacy cries for another national championship. “I’d say they’re right,” he said. “… I have my own go

Izzo wants to breathe rare air with second title at Michigan State

This is the seventh time since a 2000 championship run that Michigan State has reached the Final Four, giving Tom Izzo, 64, a score to settle in Minneapolis.
Cassius Winston

Why Michigan State can win the national championship

Cassius Winston’s mother saw the elation on Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s face Sunday after the Spartans knocked off No. 1-seeded Duke. “I said, ‘How…
Duke guard Tre Jones, center, covers his face as he walks off the court with teammates Zion Williamson (1) and Cam Reddish (2) after losing to Michiga

Duke's dream crushed by Spartans

Michigan State's 68-67 upset of No. 1 overall seed Duke shocked players on both sides, with the Spartans engaged in a wild celebration while Blue Devils players, including Apple Valley's Tre Jones, left the court quietly and in tears.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski playfully went in for a choke hold on Michigan State’s Tom Izzo before their two teams played in the 2015 Final Four. And

Krzyzewski, Izzo unwilling to live in the past before Elite Eight battle

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State's Izzo are quick to play down the Blue Devils' dominance in the series
Tre Jones let out a cheer Friday, with good reason: He scored a season-high 22 points and Duke got past Virginia Tech.

Jones comes through, and Blue Devils hold on

Apple Valley product Tre Jones on Friday hit five three-pointers for Duke in its 75-73 East Region semifinal victory over Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech guard Justin Robinson.

Duke vs. Virginia Tech: Our NCAA tournament game breakdown

With the stars back on the floor, this ACC rematch will be interesting.
LSU guard Tremont Waters against Maryland.

Michigan State vs. LSU prediction: Our NCAA tournament game breakdown

It's a battle of the power conference champions: Big Ten vs. SEC.
P.J. Fleck

Fleck on Kill's criticism: 'I'm really sorry he feels that way'

P.J. Fleck said the comments that former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill saddened his wife, Heather, and their entire family.
Jerry Kill blasts Fleck in radio interview: 'He's about himself'

Jerry Kill blasts Fleck in radio interview: 'He's about himself'

Former U football coach Jerry Kill told a national radio audience that current coach P.J. Fleck "made it sound like we didn't know what we were doing. And I took it personal."
U football player kicked off team after being charged with assaulting police officer

U football player kicked off team after being charged with assaulting police officer

Maxwell T. Janes, 19, reportedly punched a Minneapolis police officer in the face while intoxicated.
Standout safety Owens signs with Gophers on national signing day

Standout safety Owens signs with Gophers on national signing day

The 6-1, 190-pound Owens was a standout for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and will have a chance to compete for a starting job.
Former Gophers football player Jeff Jones

Former Gophers receiver Jones attempting football comeback

Three years after leaving the Gophers football team, former Minneapolis Washburn standout Jeff Jones, now 23, is attempting a comeback
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck

Gophers football primer before national signing day

Minnesota plans to announce the signing of 10 walk-on players Wednesday, and a few remaining top recruits are expected to make their college decisions.
Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca in March 2017.

Gophers' offensive coordinator Ciarrocca near contract extension

Kirk Ciarrocca is already under contract for $720,000 this year, and the extension would guarantee him the same salary for 2020.
Former Minneapolis North basketball star Ben Coleman, who played for the Gophers from 1979-81 and went on to a 12-year professional career, died Sunda

Former Minneapolis North star, ex-Gophers player Coleman dies at 57

Ben Coleman, who also played at Maryland, played 12 years of professional basketball and was the first North High player to make it to the NBA.
Fans are expected to pack Target Center much like they did Maturi Pavilion for the Gophers this season.

Even without U, spike in volleyball interest should fill Target Center

Given volleyball's spike in popularity in Minnesota, promoters expect full houses on Thursday and Saturday.
Coach P.J. Fleck (above) and athletic director Mark Coyle did not return messages Tuesday seeking comment about players who have been disciplined.

Several U players disciplined, face possible bowl game suspension

At least six Gophers football players have been disciplined and have not been allowed to practice recently in preparation for the Quick Lane Bowl.
Daquein McNeil in 2014

Murder trial of former U basketball player McNeil ends with hung jury

Daquein McNeil was coach Richard Pitino's first recruit for Minnesota and averaged about 10 minutes per game as a freshman guard on the Gophers 2014 NIT championship team.
(Clockwise from top right) Kawhi Leonard and Paul George requested trades from the Spurs and Pacers, respectively, and landed in Toronto and Oklahoma

Butler trade saga ends, but conditions that created it still hot

On Wednesday, the Wolves will face a team clinging to a superstar — a New Orleans Pelicans franchise that wonders how long the good times can last with Anthony Davis.
Gophers sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen was named defensive MVP of the Big Ten soccer tournament Sunday.

Gophers goalie Nielsen sparks surprise Big Ten soccer title

Maddie Nielsen's intimidating presence, keen instincts and steely nerves helped Minnesota cap an improbable championship run as the tournament's No. 7 seed.
Gophers soccer captain Emily Peterson needed less than six months to recover from an ACL surgery.

U soccer captain returns months ahead of schedule after torn ACL

Emily Peterson is an "incredible human," her coach says. She thought her season was over in March, but instead she'll be on the field Sunday trying to extend it.
Rocco Baldelli watches his solo home run off Phillies relief pitcher Ryan Madson during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series

How did Rocco Baldelli's promising playing career get derailed so badly?

The man the Twins picked to replace manager Paul Molitor doesn't have Hall of Fame credentials, but Baldelli certainly has stories all his own.
Boston’s Alex Cora is in the American League Manager of the Year conversation.

Modern managers way different than those Twins have hired

The profile of the modern managerial hire has been trending younger, with previous major league experience not as important as other factors.
U.S. Bank Stadium hosted Super Bowl LII in February, and more big events are on the way for the area.

'People love us': Minneapolis second to none as host of major sporting events

Fresh off the Super Bowl, Minneapolis is preparing to host the men's basketball Final Four and other national events. Meanwhile, city leaders have their sights on the College Football Playoff and WrestleMania.
How much the $77 million loss damaged Kevin Garnett’s fortune is unclear. He remains the highest-paid player in NBA history, having earned $335 mill

Garnett's $77 million lawsuit a stark warning for other pro athletes

Most people can't fathom what it's like having that much money, let alone losing it. But sports millionaires could feel Garnett's pain.
Goldy Gopher and U athletes took to the track for a ceremonial lap to mark the opening of the U’s track and field complex.

After marathon wait, Gophers get 'first-class' track and field stadium

The U's facilities upgrade originally had no plans for the $13 million stadium; now the school aims to host regional and national events there.
Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has another quarterback project on his hands, charged with molding walk-on Zack Annexstad into a proven w

Can the 'Quarterback Whisperer' change the Gophers' ugly past at QB?

The Gophers have struggled for decades to establish a consistent presence at quarterback. Now, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has another project on his hands.
Kamal Martin

'Dang near identical.' U reminds Burnsville's Martin of prep turnaround

Kamal Martin led Burnsville High School to a reversal of fortunes as a senior, and says the signs are similar when he looks at this season's Gophers football team.
The Mankato MoonDogs look on the Willmar Stingers on a perfect night for summer baseball. Mankato spent $3.1 million in public money to upgrade this b

Northwoods League no longer a sleepy little summer outpost

Northwoods League alumni continue rising to prominence in major league baseball. Need an example? Max Scherzer and Chris Sale, the starting pitchers in the last two All-Star Games, both spent a summer in the wood-bat league.
The Twins were busy as the nonwaiver trade deadline neared, sending starter Lance Lynn to the Yankees and reliever Zach Duke to the Mariners.

Sell-off continues: Lynn to Yankees, Duke to Seattle

There could still be more dealing before baseball's 3 p.m. trade deadline as the Twins picked up four more minor-leaguers, including one who hit a home run against them earlier this year.
Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco threw water on teammate Mitch Garver after Garver's walkoff double to left-center beat Cleveland 5-4 at Target Field on

Keeping hope alive? Garver's walkoff double gives Twins 5-4 win

The victory, amid trades and a tough road trip, halted a three-game losing streak and pulled the Twins within eight games of the first-place Indians. Minnesota leads the season series 7-3.
Tweaking tradition: How changing baseball could make a better game

Tweaking tradition: How changing baseball could make a better game

Third in a three-part series on the state of baseball: Speeding up and improving for future fans requires radical fixes. Not everyone agrees what those changes might be a decade from now. But it's coming.
Daquein McNeil is charged with two counts of arson. Murder charges are pending.

Former Gopher's murder trial sad chapter of once-inspiring story

Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino gave Daquein McNeil a chance to fulfill his dream after a difficult childhood in Baltimore. Instead, McNeil took one wrong turn after another.
Jake Cave

Outfielder Jake Cave returns for Twins

Jake Cave, 25, was called up prior to Saturday' game. He came to the Twins from the Yankees during spring training. The Twins first promoted Cave on May 1
Royce Lewis met one of his many young fans at a recent Cedar Rapids Kernels game.

Twins' top pick Lewis is charming Cedar Rapids – but for how much longer?

The shortstop, still just 18 years old, is showing he has big potential as a player and a person, while quickly climbing the Twins' minor-league ladder.
Gophers shortstop Terrin Vavra hung around big leaguers as a kid. He came to the U with an “advanced hittng approach.”

Chip off the old hitting coach: Vavra leads Gophers into Big Ten tourney

Junior Terrin Vavra, son of former Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra, leads the Gophers in most key offensive categories.
Former University of Minnesota-Duluth coach Shannon Miller celebrated her victory in a discrimination case while exiting the federal courthouse in Dul

Women coaches keep winning in court, but losing careers

It's become a familiar pattern: A female coach wins a court judgment for her firing, while the man responsible for her firing gets rewarded.
Gophers righthander Patrick Fredrickson is 6-0 with a Big Ten-leading 1.61 ERA.

Two freshman pitchers key Gophers baseball into Big Ten contention

Starter Patrick Fredrickson and closer Max Meyer have helped the Gophers win seven consecutive series heading into this weekend's series with Indiana.
Teammates celebrated with Minnesota infielder Makenna Partain (3) after Partain's grand slam in the bottom of the first inning against Wisconsin.

U softball storms Badgers, continues comeback from struggling start

After advancing to the NCAA super regionals last season and going 56-5, the Gophers softball team got off to a slow start before winning 12 of its last 13 games.
Clarkson Golden Knights celebrated there 2-1 overtime win at Ridder Arena Sunday March 18, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN.

Clarkson tops Colgate in OT for NCAA women's hockey title

The Golden Knights went overtime to win all three of their NCAA tournament games.
Colgate Raiders forward Bailey Larson (61) and forward Breanne Wilson-Bennett (11) celebrated a second period goal by forward Megan Sullivan (7) again

Colgate hopes to be like rival Clarkson — an NCAA women's hockey champion

Two-time NCAA champion Clarkson will play a first-time Frozen Four team in final
Clarkson forward Loren Gabel scored an overtime goal on Ohio State goaltender Kassidy Sauve to win the game 1-0.

Frozen Four drama: Clarkson, Colgate win in OT to reach women's title game

Both of Friday's national semifinal games pitted an Eastern team needing extra time to take down a WCHA foe.
The 2019 men’s basketball Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium might be the biggest ticket, but there are many more NCAA championship events coming to to

Minneapolis, St. Paul take turns as NCAA title towns

Four NCAA postseason events will be held in the Twin Cities thru April 7.
Minnesota's Oliva Knowles (24) skates off the ice after Minnesota lost 4-0 to Wisconsin during the in an NCAA Frozen Four quarterfinal March 10, 2018,

Season ends for Gophers women's hockey in NCAA quarterfinals

The Gophers' streak of Frozen Four trips ends at six in year they are host.
After health struggles, junior forward Taylor Williamson is playing again for the Gophers women’s hockey team and scoring big goals.

Gophers women's hockey forward Taylor Williamson battled health issues to play again

She battled both brain surgery and an autoimmune disorder to play college hockey again.
Gophers players rushed goalie Sidney Peters after they beat Wisconsin on Sunday at Ridder Arena.

Gophers turn back No. 1 Wisconsin for WCHA women's hockey title

By winning a must-win game, they clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament, where they will face the Badgers again.
Gophers forward Grace Zumwinkle, shown here vs. St. Cloud State earlier this season, scored twice Saturday in the WCHA semifinals.

Gophers earn shutout in WCHA semifinals, will face Wisconsin for the title

Grace Zumwinkle scored both Gophers' goals in a 2-0 victory to set up a critical WCHA finale at Ridder Arena.
“We’re ready for them,” Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall said of the Gophers, the team for which she once starred and later coached as an assist

Former U women's hockey star now taking aim at Gophers in WCHA

Nadine Muzerall is Minnesota's all-time leading scorer, a former top-notch assistant and now the Ohio State coach who could damage the Gophers' postseason hopes.
Designed to be airy and light, U.S. Bank Stadium now needs massive curtains to block the sunlight during the 2019 NCAA Final Four — and they won’t

U.S. Bank Stadium needs 'expensive' blackout curtains for NCAA

NCAA insists environment in building must be consistent throughout Final Four. Stadium authority not releasing cost estimates, but chairman says "it will be expensive — obviously."
Gophers players celebrated the win over St. Cloud State on Friday

U women's hockey sweeps St. Cloud State; Ohio State up next

The Gophers never trailed in this weekend's best-of-three series, but the next challenge will be tougher.
Marlene Stollings, Richard Pitino and Don Lucia: Will these Gophers coaches all be back next season? If so, will all three have new contracts? (Star T

Gophers' AD Coyle faces decisions on futures of Lucia, Pitino, Stollings

Athletic director Mark Coyle declined to discuss looming decisions, but it's hard to imagine "status quo" being the answer for all three coaches of the Gophers' high-profile winter sports.
Taylor Wemple, at star at Hill Murray, was committed to North Dakota, but when that program folded she landed at St. Cloud State. Now, she’ll take o

North Dakota orphans reshaping women's hockey season

Opponents trying to knock the Gophers out of NCAA tournament contention have received big boosts from former Fighting Hawks.
Freshman forward Grace Zumwinkle leads the Gophers in points. (Star Tribune file photo by ANTHONY SOUFFLE, anthony.souffle@startribune.com)

Gophers have 'mountain to climb' to get to Women's Frozen Four in home rink

Gophers could help their cause this weekend.
Franz Boelter hugged some of his players after Faribault Bethlehem Academy won the Class 1A volleyball title in 2012.

Hall of Fame prep coach denies 'emotional mistreatment' allegations after firing

Students at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault protested Franz Boelter's firing this week. But the school's president said "we have to do what's right for kids in 2018" despite Boelter's achievements coaching volleyball and boys' basketball.

AFC notes: Patriots bench cornerback Butler, hero in past Super Bowl

"I ain't got nothing to say," Malcolm Butler said in the Patriots locker room.
Referees signaled a touchdown after Philadelphia wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made a 34-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Nick Foles in the first

Patriots' defense reverts to early-season woes, can't stop Eagles

Tom Brady and the offense did their part Sunday, but New England's defense simply could not stop Philadelphia's offense — not once in the second half.
Though Patriots running back Dion Lewis wasn’t a huge factor in the AFC title game, he averaged 74.5 rushing yards and scored eight TDs in the final

Once-jettisoned Lewis is now a gem of a running back for Patriots

Featured running back Dion Lewis is the latest Patriot to go from the NFL's scrapheap to stardom
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore broke up a pass intended for Jaguars receiver Dede Westbrook late in the second half of the AFC championship game,

Patriots defense not loaded, but filled with playmakers when it counts

After Week 4, New England turned things around, leading the NFL in scoring defense (14.0 points per game), with the Vikings second at 14.7, from that point .
Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount appeared at the Mall of America on Tuesday.

Gronkowski gives simple answer to Super Bowl playing status: 'Yes'

Rob Gronkowski lost a video game competition Tuesday night at the Mall of America but gave the news every Patriots fan wanted to hear.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had the largest crowd of media around him for his availability. ] JEFF WHEELER ï jeff.wheeler@startribune.com Super Bo

Is NFL's massive popularity headed for a fall?

From concussions to the officiating, a number of issues are chipping away at the relationship between the league and football fans.