Dave Ferroni has a considerable background with sports characters, starting with the fact John Mariucci was his uncle. Ferroni was the media director for the Minnesota Fighting Saints. He was Herb Brooks’ media guy for the 1980 Olympic hockey team. And he spent four decades doing PR in auto racing.
There’s a whole bunch of retro going on in our sports reporting these days, and I called “Foof” earlier this month to check on … I’m not sure what it was now, because the conversation quickly turned into a collection of “Sonmor” stories.
And this is fact: The only stories better than Glen Sonmor telling his were others telling theirs about him.
Sonmor died Dec. 14, 2015. Wednesday would have been Glen’s 91st birthday. And if you can’t get a column out of that during a pandemic, it’s all over.
“I was Glen’s student manager with the Gophers in 1969-70,” Ferroni said. “Herbie was the assistant coach. We were opening the season in Duluth in the middle of November. First series of Mike Antonovich’s career. We were loaded. So was Duluth, including having Chico Resch in goal. They blew us out 7-3 on Friday night, even though An-Tonn had a couple of goals.”
And then came Saturday night; tied 2-2 in overtime. Antonovich gets boarded near the Gophers bench where Sonmor is coaching. The boards are so low, Antonovich gets stuck on them for a second.
“Some guy who had been on Glen all night reaches over, grabs An-Tonn’s stick, jersey, something, and he won’t let him go,” said Bruce McIntosh, a junior on that team. “A second later, Glen is off the bench and throwing punches … wailing on the guy. And Frank Sanders’ father, who was gigantic, is rumbling down the steps to join in, trips and comes crashing down. Frank’s saying, ‘Dad, what are you doing?’ and he said, ‘I was going to help Glen.’”
Antonovich laughed from his home in Coleraine this week and said: “Glen didn’t need any help. He was in there with his glass eye, an 18-year-old kid again, throwing punches in a hockey fight.
“When it was over, Glen’s shirt was torn off, but he still had his tie. We won it a minute later on a goal by Craig Sarner — and there’s Glen walking across the ice, celebrating, with just a tie covering his very hairy chest.”
The Gophers won the WCHA that winter. Somehow, they wound up in Duluth — where the Bulldogs had faded to eighth after it was revealed at midseason that coach Bill Selman was out — for a single-elimination first-round playoff game.
“Glen brought Jim Carter and a couple of other Gophers football players with us and had them sit right behind the bench, in case he needed help,” Ferroni said.
Ferroni could write a book on the adventures of Sonmor, coach Harry Neale, Wayne Belisle and prior owners from those Fighting Saints years.
“Glen was both coach and GM that first year, and we were in Ottawa,” Ferroni said. “His wife, Marge, had bought him a velour sports jacket. Lavender. Glen knew nothing about clothes, so he’s wearing the coat, and there are fans behind the bench, riding him all night. Finally, someone yells, ‘Hey Liberace.’
“He could take a lot but not being told he was dressed like Liberace. Glen came off the bench and started throwing punches.”
Antonovich was Sonmor’s all-time favorite player and McIntosh said: “What you should know is there are almost as many Antonovich stories as Sonmor stories. We were warming up in Duluth. The UMD band is up there, and the tuba player has a crêpe Bulldog on the mouth of it. An-Tonn says, ‘Watch this.’ He fired a puck up there, misses, but the second one … goes through that Bulldog into the tuba.”
Ferroni said: “An-Tonn was like a son for Glen and Marge. After his sophomore year, Glen couldn’t come up with a solution to get Mike out of general college and keep him eligible. He said, ‘Foof, I don’t think we’re going to have him.’ Then, Glen went to a game that night in the Braemar summer league and An-Tonn had seven goals.
“I saw Glen the next morning and he said: ‘Seven goals, Foof. I’ll think of something.’ ”
Happy birthday, Glen, from all who have shared in Sonmor stories — telling, or being told.
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