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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: For the best of the hockey guys, look to the Iron Range

An odd truth about being a Minnesota sports writer of long standing: I’m not a hockey guy but I love hockey guys.

There are no better yarns to be heard in this job than those told by hockey coaches, players and everyday fans from the glory years of “Region 7,” when schools would survive a fierce regular season on the Iron Range and take on the teams from the arc containing Duluth.

I was reminded of this again when contacting hockey guys such as Pat Micheletti, Bruce Plante and Steve Jezierski for a column I was writing last week on Corey Millen.

Micheletti was a high school rival and then a Gophers teammate; Plante was Millen’s bantam coach in Cloquet; and Jezierski did play-by-play as Millen and his teammates filled Cloquet’s true barn of an arena in the late ’70s into the ’80s.

Micheletti was the star among standouts at Hibbing and Millen at Cloquet.

“People tried to create a rift between us that really wasn’t there,” Micheletti said. “I do think he was a little ticked when I was first-team All-State as a junior and he was second-team. His claim to fame in our rivalry was coming into Hibbing and beating us as a senior.”

One habit developed in the 1990s during the dreary days of wintertime column writing was to spend a couple of days on the Range. The last trip there was in 2005, when Virginia qualified for its first state tournament.

Keith Hendrickson was the coach. His father, Dave, had been the coach in the 1970s. The Blue Devils were outstanding but facing mighty Grand Rapids (coached by Dave’s brother Gus) in the 1975 Region 7 semifinals.

Virginia scored with one second left in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. A few minutes later, the referees came to the locker room and told Keith, the team’s captain, that they were waving off the goal — either for a high stick or it was too late.

Keith smelled a rat and went storming after his uncle outside the Grand Rapids locker room. (Note: Grand Rapids would win the game and the state title.)

I love hockey guys, especially ones from the Great North.


Prominent sports car­toon characters to precede P.J. Fleck around here in recent years:

• Tim Brewster, Gophers football coach from 2007 into 2010, lives in infamy for his fantastic rhetoric and unkept promises.

• David Kahn, Timberwolves president of basketball from 2009 to 2013, was a wizard of language — “bifurcate’’ — but not the draft board.

• Mike Tice, Vikings coach from 2002 to 2005, is a very good football man but also a grand, goofy character as the man in charge.

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Reusse: Hunter will offer strong opinions in new role with Twins

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Twins manager Paul Molitor was quoted this week as saying he has lobbied with Derek Falvey, the team president for baseball, to add a veteran player that could provide a strong presence in the clubhouse.

The current roster makeup would suggest the likely position for such a player would be outfielder.

I was walking in the area between the dormitory and clubhouse for minor leaguers at the Twins’ complex on Wednesday and I ran into just the guy. The name might be familiar:

Torii Hunter.

Dang almighty, Hunter is exactly in the same impeccable physical condition today as when he played his final season for the Twins in 2015.

“I thought the same thing,’’ Falvey said Wednesday. “Torii looks like he’s 19. I told him, ‘We might have to redo this special assistant thing with you to include playing.’ ‘’

Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer, all Twins during the turnaround in the early 2000s, were hired as special assistants to the team’s new baseball operation in November.

When you see additions such as this, you presume such hires are largely ceremonial. What I can now say about that is this:

Torii does not see his new job with the Twins as ceremonial. We had an informal 15-minute conversation on Wednesday that was largely off-the-record.

What’s important is that he is here for three days of meetings that Falvey is holding at the Twins’ facility. Hunter is planning to dive in, listen and watch, and to express his opinions.

Torii has never been reluctant to express those, and he’s not going to start now. He’s also going to do some work on Twins’ television broadcasts (as are Hawkins and Cuddyer), and it will be intriguing to watch him walk the tightrope between refreshing candor and proprietary information.

One Twins’ meeting being held Wednesday was all the people involved in hitting instruction in the organization. The session was being led by James Rowson, the Twins’ new hitting coach, and Rick Eckstein, the minor league hitting coordinator hired late last year.

Hunter was among those sitting in. And voicing opinions, no doubt.

Falvey and his general manager, Thad Levine, will hold meetings with the amateur scouting staff on Thursday and into Friday. This will be the first sitdown with all the scouts being conducted by Sean Johnson, who was moved up to scouting director by Falvey in early December.

“Change is underway,’’ Hunter said. “It’s going to be good.’’

The Twins have been close to good only once in the past six years. That was when Hunter, in the season he turned 40, returned to Minnesota for a closing bow.

And he isn’t going to be talked into an encore, even if he does look the part of an athlete still in his prime.

Or before his prime – “looks 19,’’ said Falvey, the Twins’ baseball boss who will turn 34 next month.

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