Al Shaver, voice of the North Stars and Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner, dies at 96

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Al Shaver, voice of the North Stars and Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner, dies at 96

The legendary Al Shaver, the beloved radio voice of the North Stars during the franchise’s 26 years in Minnesota, died Monday after a brief illness on Vancouver Island, B.C., at the age of 96, his son Wally, the longtime play-by-play radio voice of the Gophers, told The Athletic on Wednesday.

Born in London, Ont., Shaver was a play-by-play announcer for radio and television stations in Guelph, Ont., Calgary and Medicine Hat, Alta. It was in Medicine Hat where he met his wife, Shirley. They were married for 67 years until Shirley died in 2019.

Shaver’s broadcasting career continued in Edmonton, where his five children were born. The family moved frequently throughout Shaver’s broadcasting career across Canada from Edmonton to Montreal, to Tecumseh, Ont., then Windsor, Ont. and finally, Toronto.

“After moving four years in a row, I finally told Mom just to keep the boxes packed because we’d probably be moving again,” Wally Shaver said. “Dad said the move to Minnesota would be our last for a long time and we were very grateful for that.”

In 1967, Shaver was offered the position as the radio broadcaster for the NHL expansion North Stars calling games on WCCO Radio and later KSTP-AM and WAYL-AM.

Lou Nanne, the former North Stars player, coach and general manager, told The Athletic on Wednesday that North Stars founder Walter Bush had his heart set on hiring another broadcaster when he suddenly pivoted to Shaver at the last second.

“At the last minute of the last day, Al’s tape came in, Walter listened and changed his mind,” Nanne said. “Al was the best. He was an unbelievable broadcaster. He painted a picture like you’d think you’re there, and he lived and died with the team. But he didn’t sugarcoat it. If you weren’t good, or if the team wasn’t good, he let you know. He wasn’t a homer. He was so well-respected. Just so talented and so good at what he did.”

Al Shaver didn’t follow the North Stars when the team moved to Dallas in 1993, choosing to stay in Minnesota. He called games for the University of Minnesota men’s hockey for three seasons, then retired in 1996. The press box at Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild, bears his name.

Shaver received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 1993 and is a member of the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He is also a member of the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

“He was a wonderful man,” said former North Stars defenseman and longtime Wild radio analyst Tom Reid, “and a good friend.”

Shaver is survived by sons Wally (Connie), Jim (Cheryl) and Gary (Michaelyn), daughters Judy (Dave) Molnau and Sue (Doug) Bergemann, nine grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and two great-great-granddaughters.

“Dad was an avid Minnesota hockey fan,” Wally Shaver told The Athletic. “I asked him the other day who his favorite team was nowadays. He grew up a Toronto fan and has followed Vancouver since moving to BC in ’98, but he said he’s always been a fan of the Wild. He really wanted to see a Cup win for the fans of NHL hockey in Minnesota. He touched so many people over the years with his calls of the North Stars and Gophers. We were all lucky to have shared in his many calls and wonderful stories.”

(Photo of Al Shaver, his son Wally Shaver and his grandson Jason Shaver David Brewster / Getty Images)