Kevin McHale

Hibbing native Kevin McHale played basketball at all levels, including the University of Minnesota and in the NBA with the Boston Celtics during the 1980s and early 1990s. He later became a front office member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, including a stint as coach. Here are some notable encounters for McHale.

Dave Nevanen/copy editor

Bob Zbasnik tries to guard Kevin McHale. 1978 / Duluth News Tribune

Bill Walton (left) makes a point to Kevin McHale when the Celtics were playing in the NBA Championship in 1986. Associated Press

Kevin McHale collars Kurt Rambis of the Lakers during the 1984 NBA playoffs. Ironically, Rambis replaced McHale as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009. Associated Press

Detroit Pistons’ Dennis Rodman (center) reels backward after Kevin McHale (left) of the Celtics hit him in the neck in 1991. Looking on is Larry Bird. Associated Press

Kevin McHale (right) made a cameo appearance on the NBC comedy "Cheers" in 1990. Bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson, left) tried to convince McHale of the Celtics to play for Cheers in a basketball game against a rival tavern. Photo by NBC

Fatal 1971 train accident

I’ve always wondered if any train cars have fallen off the trestles over I-35 in West Duluth that lead to the ore docks. One accident file in the DNT attic answered the question. On Jan. 30, 1971, three locomotives, 15 ore cars and a caboose were headed down the hill from Proctor when they apparently lost their brakes. The caboose operators detached from the rest of the train and managed to stop it with hand brakes. The rest of the train rolled all the way to the docks and collided with ore cars already on the docks.

Railroad officials view the wreckage on DM&IR Dock 6.


Killed in the accident were Emmett Byrnes of Duluth and Donald Mandrey of Redore. Mandrey, a fireman in the lead locomotive, stayed with the train and died in the crash. Byrnes managed to jump from the train and was picked up by the caboose, but suffered a heart attack from the stress of the incident and died at St. Mary’s Hospital.

The "death train," as the News Tribune called it, plunged out of control down
this grade on its approach to the ore docks.


Three ore cars were knocked off the side of the dock onto the ground below. The rest of the cars blocked the dock until they were removed days later. Ironically, the locomotives and ore cars were part of a train that derailed near Floodwood the day before. They were the only cars left on the tracks in that incident.

Does anyone remember this accident, know people involved or have more information to share? Is this the only such accident at the site?

– Dave Ojala, copy editor

Posted in Uncategorized

Winter Olympic memories

In the excitement following the gold medal win over Finland, Robert Verchota, father of U.S. Olympic hockey player Phil Verchota, grabbed a shotgun and fired three triumphant blasts from the front porch of the Verchota home in Duluth on Feb. 25, 1980. Charles Curtis / News Tribune

As the 2010 Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver, we remembered that Duluth News Tribune sports writer covered the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. Here’s his column from the opening ceremonies along with some people mentioned.

John Harrington waits out a penalty during a Team USA exhibition game in Duluth in October, 1983. News Tribune

By Kevin Pates/News Tribune Staff Writer

The guy in front of me looked a lot like Mark Johnson, but it was hard to tell. The 55,000 people crammed into Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium on Friday night were all wearing white. It was part of the Opening Ceremony group performance. Everyone got a white cape, colored placards, a flashlight and a flute.

So I kept looking at this guy who reminded me of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey player. He turned around once to say something to another guy. “Hey Bah,’ he said. Bah? Like John “Bah’ Harrington, another 1980 Olympian from Virginia? Hey, it was Bah. And there was goalie Jim Craig in front of me. And Mike Eruzione over here. And Eric Strobel over there.

And wasn’t that Duluthian Phil Verchota?

You don’t have to hit me over the head with a hockey stick. The rumors were right. The Olympic torch would reach the cauldron with the help of the most-remembered Olympic team in U.S. history.

They were all right there on stadium bleacher seats waiting their turn. Well, 18 of the 20. Evelethian Mark Pavelich is back on his land near Lutsen, and Mike Ramsey is working as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild.

But everyone else was there, and these Olympians were still willing to talk about Lake Placid even 22 years after the fact.

“The 1980 Olympics has been a wonderful part of my life. It’s what sports is all about,’ said Verchota, a Willmar, Minn., banker who sat in the cool night air with his wife, Julie. “Getting a chance to get together with our team the last two weeks has been absolutely exciting.’

Verchota, 45, was also captain of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and played that year, again, with Harrington.

Harrington brought his son, Chris, to a 1980 Olympic reunion in Los Angeles a week ago, and had his two daughters, Leah, a St. Benedict College freshman, and Patty, a high school junior, with him Friday. They loved the patriotic, USA atmosphere that featured the Dixie Chicks, Yo-Yo Ma, President Bush and the World Trade Center flag.

Craig, 44, hadn’t been to another Olympics until Friday, but he’s never stopped being reminded about 1980.

“There isn’t a month that goes by, probably not even a week, that someone wants to talk about Lake Placid. And I never get tired of talking about it,’ said Craig, who lives in North Easton, Mass., and is a motivational speaker and an account manager for an advertising publisher.

So here are these guys, and their families, dressed in white and loving the spectacle on a Utah night of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doing the wave.

And I’m talking to Verchota, catching up on his parents, Bob and Phyllis, who still live in Duluth, and he says, “Hey, I’ve got to go.’ The 1980 team vanishes, and minutes later the Olympic torch reaches the stadium.

It’s handed off in a U.S. Olympic relay from Dorothy Hamill and Dick Button, to Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton, to Bill Johnson and Phil Mahre, to Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair, to Jim Shea Sr. and Jim Shea Jr., to Picabo Street and Cammi Granato.

Then, at the base of a spiral staircase, Eruzione appeared in a replica of his 1980 jersey, followed by the rest of the hockey team, like Buzzy Schneider of Babbitt and Bill Baker of Grand Rapids. During a group lighting, the “USA!’ chants felt real again.

The best-kept secret of the opening ceremonies wasn’t such a secret after all.

I could’ve told you that, once I figured it all out.


Themed lunchboxes

An errant envelope in the attic brought back memories of walking to school in the late 1960s and early 1970s carrying a "Lost in Space" lunchbox. It seemed everyone back then had some kind of themed lunchbox. The good old lunchbox must have been replaced by backpacks and soft-sided coolers. What did your themed lunchbox look like?

A photo dated 1980 found in the attic featured a lunchbox with a
"Happy Days" theme, one with NFL helmets and another with the Bee Gees.

Posted in Uncategorized

Monkee memories

Micky Dolenz performs with the Monkees in Duluth on Nov. 9, 1986. Photo by Steve Stearns


Remember the Monkees, who sang their way to fame on a TV show in the 1960s? The band made it to Duluth at least twice, according to News Tribune files.
The first time was on Sept. 6, 1969. They performed twice at the Duluth Auditorium.
A story that ran the next day said, “The afternoon audience was small but enthusiastic. Attendance in the evening was better, and Arena-Auditorium officials said 3,806 youngsters in all saw the group.
“Earlier in the day, Superior police had to disperse a crowd of young girls — about 200 — who had gathered near the motel at which the group was reportedly staying. They were disappointed. The Monkees already had left for their afternoon show.”
The group returned for a performance 17 years later, on Nov. 9, 1986. Well, most of the group. Mike “Wool Hat” Nesmith wasn’t there, but the other three were: Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz.
Here’s a little bit of what staff writer Mike Hughlett had to say in his review of that concert:
“The rock ’n’ roll animal is a creature of many moods.
“It can be angry, sensual, artsy, theatrical, and sometimes even philosophical. But above all, the rock ’n’ roll animal likes to have a good time.
“The Monkees know that. Saturday night, they dished out about an hour of just plain fun to about 4,300 fans of all ages — including an especially vocal contingent of teenage girls — in the Duluth Arena.
“OK, rock ’n’ roll pseudo-highbrows, I know what you’re saying: ‘The Manufactured Monkees, the world’s pre-eminent, prefabricated rock band — a combo so musically forlorn they couldn’t even play their own instruments. And now they’re going to cash in on their ill-gained fame before their heads runneth over with gray hairs. I just can’t take them seriously.’
Well, critic, you lost. They might be cashing in, but the Monkees were never meant to be taken as artists come to deliver a speakerful of sagacity. Sure, they may have been hyped as a serious response to the Beatles. But at heart they were slapstick comedians with a paisley twist who happened to sing some fantastic songs.”

What concerts do you have fond memories of in the Duluth area?

Linda Hanson, copy editor

Original DECC arena construction

As the new $70 million arena takes shape at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, I thought it would be a good time to look back at construction of the existing arena and auditorium. The $6.1 million project began in 1965, and the facility opened in August 1966. It won acclaim across the state, with the Minneapolis Star Tribune saying it put Duluth on a level playing field with the Twin Cities for attracting conventions.

Workers pour concrete for the arena bleachers in May 1965.

Workers pour concrete for the arena bleachers in May 1965.

The community really backed the project, with stories from 1966 describing an army of local volunteers cleaning up after construction – and even washing windows – to get the facility ready for its opening events. An electronic scoreboard and other amenities were made possible with $250,00 in local donations.

Workers toil with air ducts under the bleachers in September 1965.

After a successful first year, local supporters attracted Jack Benny and Bobby Vinton to perform at the first anniversary celebration in 1967. What are your memories of the orginal DECC? Did you work on it? How has construction changed?

Norman Gullickson of Cloquet (from left), Jack Christensen of Duluth and
Arthur Hill of Cromwell assemble the electronic scoreboard in July, 1966.

Vikings and Super Bowls


Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton sits on his helmet during the final minutes of the Super Bowl in 1977, a 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Pasadena, Calif. Associated Press

The Minnesota Vikings came painfully close to making it to their fifth Super Bowl, but many fans are still hurting after the overtime loss to New Orleans on Jan. 24, 2010. The Vikings are 0-4 in Super Bowls and sometimes digging through the attic, you find a treasure. I discovered a photo involving what I have heard as the "Whiskey Bottle Curse", where referee Armen Terzian was hit by a whiskey bottle by Vikings fans during a 1975 NFC playoff loss  against the Dallas Cowboys at Metropolitan Stadium. Some say the curse is why the Vikings have failed to win in big playoff games.

There are other photos that connect the Vikings to the Super Bowl or playoffs from the past. I hope they don’t stir up too many bad memories.

Dave Nevanen, copy editor

Chuck Foreman (44) of the Minnesota Vikings pleads with fans as official Armen Terzian lays on the field after being struck by a whiskey bottle thrown from the stands during a 1975 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. Charles Curtis / News Tribune

Carl Eller (81) of the Vikings chasing quarterback Archie Manning of the New Orleans Saints during a game in 1976. Super Bowl connection: Archie Manning’s son Peyton Manning is the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, who are playing the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. And we all know who the Saints beat in this year’s NFC Championship. News Tribune

Quarterback Fran Tarkenton (10) of the Vikings in a 1976 playoff game against Washington at Met Stadium. News Tribune

Minnesota coach Bud Grant runs from the field after the Vikings lost to the Miami Dolphins in the 1974 Super Bowl in Houston. Associated Press