By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Lou Nanne's My North
Lou Nanne lives and breathes Minnesota hockey. Like many Minnesota hockey greats, Nanne’s career on the ice began as a Gopher, but over the years he’s also been a U.S. Olympian, and a player, coach and general manager for the Minnesota North Stars! And through it all, he’s also been the color commentator for the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament for the past 50-plus years.
But this Minnesota hockey legend has a big secret: he’s not actually Minnesotan at all.
Nope, Lou “Mr. Minnesota Hockey” Nanne was actually born in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, Cananda. He didn’t even set foot in Minnesota until visiting the U on a recruiting trip. That’s alright, though. We love him just the same. In honor of the fateful visit that gave former-Canadian Lou Nanne to the State of Hockey, here are some other Canadian things that Minnesota has made its own.
While the “Roaring Game” technically got its start in Scotland in the 1500s, its international rise to prominence came thanks to the Canadians, who co-opted curling in the early 19th century. It didn’t take long for curling to bleed south to Minnesota, first making a home in the Iron Range, where regional clubs began popping up more than 160 years ago, and eventually landing in the Twin Cities, where the sport has boomed of late. And, while there’s been a boom in curling clubs all over town, the hub of the action is Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, which is home to the Four Seasons Curling Club and affectionately known as “Curling Town USA.” At Fogerty you can watch curling from amateur leagues to Olympic trials, learn to curl no matter your age, or just eat at their curling-themed restaurant, Sticks & Stones.
It might be hard to believe—borderline blasphemous, even—that when an enterprising Quebec-ite first melted cheese curds and gravy atop a heaping stack of French fries in the 1950s, it was by and large made fun of. Oh, how the tables have turned! Since its inauspicious launch 70-something years ago, Poutine has become a mainstay of Canadian comfort food, and has successfully integrated into Minnesota’s food scene, as well. Some of the best efforts can be found in Minneapolis, whether it’s the breakfast poutine topped with an over-easy egg at Muddy Waters, the Royal Mounted Bacon Poutine at Burger Jones, or the Harold & Kumar Poutine at The Rabbit Hole in the Midtown Global Market—a Korean-fusion approach to poutine that delights the senses with pork curry gravy, kimchi and a soft poached egg.
Swedish Fish are, perhaps unsurprisingly, originally from Sweden—but that doesn’t mean the ones we get here in Minnesota are made there. In fact, all of North America’s Swedish Fish are produced in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. And they must have a direct pipeline from Hamilton to Minnesota, because our Scandinavian-blooded populace consumes them with the same ferocity as we do lefse, lutefisk and Swedish meatballs. You can get them at most candy shops and supermarkets around the state, but true Swedish Fish purists will make the trek to Jordan, where Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, AKA, the Big Yellow Barn, offers all flavors and sizes of Canadian-made Swedish fish (and, um, all sorts of other candy).
Enterprising Minnesotans have been “taking fishing trips to Canada” as a cover-up for grabbing donuts at Tim Hortons for years. So you can only imagine that the number of Minnesotans taking fishing trips to Canada declined dramatically in 2016 when Tim Horton’s finally opened its first Minnesota store in the Mall of America. Started by Canadian hockey great, Tim Horton, MOA’s version of the donut shop offers the full menu of its Canadian counterparts, with everything from breakfast sandwiches to maple, honey, chocolate and vanilla dip donuts.
Settled in 1849 by a French-Canadian settler, Little Canada, a first ring suburb of St. Paul, was originally named New Canada. And although the town character has proven to be more Italian than Canadian (think local Italian food staple The Venetian Inn), that hasn’t stopped Little Canada from celebrating Canadian Days every August, or from incorporating a maple leaf and fleur-de-lis into its city crest.