MINNEAPOLIS – It's no secret that the distinction Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer most cares about is not an individual award.
He was honored, however, to be named the Minnesota Sports Awards Coach of the Year.
Zimmer was recognized for his outstanding coaching performance throughout the 2017 season, during which he weathered the early loss of a starting quarterback and running back and led the Vikings to a 13-3 regular-season record.
The Vikings won the NFC North title and defeated the Saints in the Divisional Round playoff game, where the improbable Minneapolis Miracle play – which was a finalist for "Sports Moment of the Year" – advanced Minnesota to the NFC Championship game.
Zimmer was selected out of three finalists which also included Golden Gophers Baseball Head Coach John Anderson and Lakeville North Volleyball Head Coach Jackie Richter.
Although Zimmer was unable to attend the Minnesota Sports Awards banquet that took place at U.S. Bank Stadium Wednesday evening, he recorded a video message to express his gratitude.
"Thank you for the honor of being selected as Minnesota Sports Awards Coach of the Year," Zimmer said. "I'm sorry I can't be in attendance tonight; we have preparations for a huge New Orleans Saints game this week. I would also like to congratulate the other nominees. I have great respect for Coach Anderson and Coach Richter, and I'm proud of the work that they both do for the student-athletes in the state of Minnesota. We have great Vikings fans all around the state, and we need you to cheer for us again this weekend. Thank you."
The evening's ceremony was emceed by Vikings Legend and Ring of Honor member Ahmad Rashad along with FOX Sports North broadcaster Anthony LaPanta, who welcomed Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman to the stage for a brief Q&A and to speak about Zimmer.
Spielman said that he knew what the Vikings franchise needed when he hired Zimmer in January 2014.
"He is a guy that works extremely hard, he's a great leader of men in that locker room," Spielman said. "I know our players really follow his leadership through all the adversities that not only we [have faced], but a lot of these sports teams in Minnesota [have]. But also, he's a great developer of young talent."
Spielman pointed to the recent game against the Jets, during which young players like rookies Jalyn Holmes and Holton Hill stepped in for injured teammates and recorded a sack and an interception, respectively.
"It's great to see them develop the talent that we bring in," Spielman said. "To have that relationship with Coach Zimmer and us working together like that and everybody on the same page, hopefully we'll continue to have that success."
Other Vikings notables in attendance were two of Rashad's former teammates, Hall of Famers Carl Eller and Paul Krause.
Sid Hartman inducted into Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame
Interestingly, the 2018 inductee to the Star Tribune Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame has covered, Rashod, Eller and Krause and is currently covering Zimmer and the rest of the Minnesota sports scene.
Legendary Star Tribune sports columnist and longtime friend of the Vikings Sid Hartman was inducted Wednesday evening, becoming the first inductee in 12 years. Other members in the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame include Eller, Bud Grant and Twins Legends Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Kirby Puckett, among many others.
"Sid has seen it all in Minnesota sports. And he has done it all, too. As a columnist, Sid has a unique voice," said Star Tribune Assistant Managing Editor of Sports, Glen Crevier. "As he rounds the corner toward his 99th birthday, he is as relentless as ever pursuing news. His impact on the Minnesota sports scene is as great as any athlete he ever covered."
Hartman, who wrote his first column for the Minneapolis Daily Times on Sept. 11, 1945, has written more than 20,000 stories in 70-plus years as a reporter.
"This weekend, the Gophers play Indiana, the Vikings host the Saints, and the Lakers will be in town to play the Timberwolves (on Monday)," Crevier said. "Sid will be at all three games, writing columns and documenting history."
A tribute video was played for Hartman, during which Grant was interviewed.
"Anywhere in the Midwest, if you just say, 'Sid,' they'd say, 'Hartman.' There's no other Sids out there," said Grant, who calls Hartman his best friend. "Sid's the only guy."
Said Hartman in the video: "My life is good. I enjoy what I'm doing."
Hartman gave a brief acceptance speech, during which he thanked his family for years of support as well as extending gratitude to two nurses who assist him.
"I want to congratulate all the athletes who are being honored tonight, who deserve what they will receive," Hartman said. "They certainly deserve to be honored a lot more than I do. I don't have time tonight to mention all of the people who have played a part in the success that I've had. There are so many who have helped me in my life, both in the newspaper and radio, in this city. Yes, I've spent 70 years at the newspaper and more than 50 at the radio (WCCO).
"At 98 years old, I hope I can continue to do what I'm doing at the Star Tribune and WCCO. I love what I do, and it's a lot of fun."
Below is the full list of 2018 Minnesota Sports Awards winners:
Sports Moment of the Year: Cretin-Derham Hall High School boys' basketball team, for its game-winning dunk at the final buzzer to defeat Apple Valley for the Class 4A state title
High School Athlete of the Year (female): Loli Fidler, girls' hockey, Edina
High School Athlete of the Year (male): Owen King, football and boys' basketball, Caledonia Area
College Athlete of the Year (female): Sidney Peters, women's hockey, University of Minnesota
College Athlete of the Year (male): Obsa Ali, men's cross country and track-and-field, University of Minnesota
Professional Athlete of the Year: Lindsay Whalen, former Lynx guard
Note: the other two finalists were Vikings receiver Adam Thielen and Wild wing Jason Zucker
Courage Award: Collin Martin, Minnesota United FC