Former Gophers …

by Matthew Cross

Former Gophers running back Chris Darkins, now with the Green Bay Packers, decided Tuesday that he will undergo shoulder surgery and miss the 1996 NFL season.
Darkins dislocated his left shoulder during the Packers’ preseason game against New England last Friday. The fourth-round pick from Houston was competing with Travis Jervey for the backup spot behind Edgar Bennett.
Packers coach Mike Holmgren said earlier this week that Darkins was behind in the race after gaining only three yards on four carries in the team’s 24-7 win against the Patriots. Holmgren said, however, that Darkins looked promising at times.
The injury comes at a bad time for Darkins, who was trying to convince the NFL that he is durable and dependable enough to play at the professional level.
NFL scouts have long feared that injuries could be a trend for Darkins. This fear translated into Darkins’ lowered stock in last April’s draft. At one time, Darkins was considered a first-round pick.
Darkins, who set Minnesota’s school single-season rushing record in 1994 with 1,443 yards, missed much of last season because of a sprained ankle and a pulled hamstring. He gained only 825 yards last year even though he was projected as a Heisman Trophy candidate before the season started.
He also missed all of the Gophers’ spring contact drills in 1994 when he underwent surgery to his injured left wrist.
Blast fan vents to media
A disgruntled fan of the Minnesota Arctic Blast roller hockey team called numerous media outlets Tuesday afternoon telling them the Blast would fold after this season.
This rumor is apparently false.
The fan described herself as someone close to the team and explained that the Blast needed to make at least $10,000 in each of its last two home games Saturday and Monday to stay afloat as a franchise.
She also noted that former Gophers hockey players who currently play for the Blast — Randy Skarda, Cory Laylin and Justin McHugh — would be out of a job.
Blast media contact Pam Hentges said, “This is not in any way a true statement.”
Hentges said the team is struggling financially and that the overall attendance figures are down but that it does not have any plans to fold or move from Minnesota.
“Leaving is just not an option for us,” Hentges said. “We plan to stay at the Target Center. We have a strong season ticket base, and we don’t need a certain amount of fans to stay here. We make a little money.”
Hentges said the team was aware that this would be a rebuilding year, and it has been encouraged by growing attendance figures since the team clinched the Roller Hockey International league’s Central Division title.
The Blast will start the playoffs Aug. 18. The opening round series is a best-of-three games affair with the third game, if necessary, taking place Aug. 20 at the Target Center.
Berg, LaFleur make USA Select team
Gophers hockey players Brian LeFleur and Reggie Berg were among six in-state players named to the 1996 USA Select team, which is scheduled to play Aug. 22-25 in Tampere, Finland.
Also on that team are Minnesota-Duluth’s Rick Mrozik and Mike Peluso, Cottage Grove native Scott Swanson (Colorado College) and St. Cloud State’s Matt Cullen.
Gophers Erik Rasmussen and Wyatt Smith are among the eight players on the U.S. National Junior Training Camp team who are from Minnesota.
Cottage Grove native Brian Waldo (Colorado College), St. Cloud State’s Mark Parrish and Bloomington Jefferson’s Ben Clymer and Toby Petersen also made the 22-man roster.
Two USHL players, Bloomington native Josh DeWolf and Cottage Grove native Dan Peters, round out that team, which began a three-game series against the Finnish Under-20 team Tuesday.
Volleyball begins practice
The Gophers volleyball team announced that it will begin practicing twice a day starting Friday.
New coach Mike Hebert, who led Illinois to four Big Ten titles, 11 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and two 18-0 conference records, will begin his campaign to turn Minnesota into national contenders.
The Gophers will start their Big Ten season Aug. 27 at the Sports Pavilion against the defending conference champions, Penn State. They will play Ohio State on Aug. 28 at home.
Lehman one of favorites
Former Gophers golfer Tom Lehman is considered one of the favorites to win the PGA Championship this weekend.
The tournament starts Thursday at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., and runs through Sunday.
Greg Norman and Nick Price are also high on the short list of favorites.