MINNEAPOLIS — If not for the abrupt cancellation of all sports, last week, Tyler Nanne would have been on a plane to Pennsylvania on Friday, headed to a Big Ten men's hockey playoff game.
Instead, the Minnesota Gophers co-captain will head that way sometime in the future to play professional hockey. On Tuesday, March 17, Nanne announced he had signed a contract with the Hershey (Pa.) Bears of the American Hockey League, who are the top minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“It’s cool to finally get on to the next chapter. I’m ready to develop a plan and get to work,” said the 24-year-old Nanne, shortly after cleaning out his locker at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Tuesday. He transferred to Minnesota after starting his college career at Ohio State, where a heart condition prevented him from playing for the Buckeyes.
“I’ve had a long uphill battle ever since my heart (condition) so I’m blessed to get over it and make it through and get another chance at playing hockey.”
Originally taken in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers, Nanne became a free agent when that team failed to sign him prior to the start of the 2019-20 season.
As the Gopher program’s first third-generation player, after his grandfather, Lou, and father, Marty, both played for the U of M, Tyler had four goals and 10 assists during his senior season on defense. He missed three games due to injury. Nanne graduated with a business marketing degree in the spring of 2019 but chose to come back to school for his senior season.
“It was amazing. We really grew as a team and we had a really great group of guys. From the start of the year until now, we might have grown more than any other team in college hockey. I strongly believe that,” Nanne said about his final season. “It’s too bad because I think we would’ve had a good chance of making the (NCAA) tournament and making a splash. Being a senior, it’s tough to go out that way. But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, spending the whole year with the guys and a great coaching staff.”
Gophers coach Bob Motzko offered congratulations on the pro contract, and spoke of how much Nanne grew during the two seasons they worked together.
“Tyler has worked himself into an opportunity and we’re very happy for him,” Motzko said. “Tyler was cheated out of development years, but he’s a great skater, he’s tough as nails and he became an excellent defender. As he gets older, he will develop more offense, because he can really shoot a puck, but he really developed in his lane. He plays a ton of minutes, and plays against other teams’ top players and does it at a high level.”
The Gophers were scheduled for a one-game Big Ten semifinal playoff at Penn State prior to the NCAA cancelling the rest of hockey season. Instead, Nanne’s final game was a 3-2 home win over Notre Dame on Sunday, March 8.
“In front of the home crowd, with family in the stands, that was a special night,” Nanne said. “Just taking a lap around Mariucci and seeing all the familiar faces was awesome.”
The Gophers finished with a 16-14-7 overall record and tied for second in the Big Ten.