On Friday night, the Gophers will honor the greatest hockey player without a doubt who ever put on the Maroon and Gold uniform in John Mayasich. He not only dominated high school hockey playing for Eveleth, sparking the Golden Bears to four state championships and a 69-0 record in his four years with the varsity, but went on to become one of the best collegiate players in history.

Mayasich, 80, will be on hand for a pregame program and then do a ceremonial puck drop before the Gophers’ game against Michigan.

Mayasich is still the Gophers’ career leading scorer with 144 goals and 298 points in 111 games over his four-year career from 1951-55. That gave Mayasich an astonishing 2.68 points-per-game average.

Still, the reason for the Gophers honoring him Friday isn’t his college career — he already is the only Gophers hockey player to have his jersey retired — but for his illustrious Olympic and international career with Team USA.

He was an eight-time member of the U.S. National Team, still a record, and he won an Olympic silver medal in 1956 and a gold medal in 1960.

Close, personal friend

Mayasich and I got to be close friends while he was with the Gophers. I attended his wedding in Eveleth to one great gal in Carol. And Mayasich’s closest friend on the hockey team was Stanley Hubbard, who Mayasich went to work for as general manager of one of the Hubbard families’ radio stations, a job he held for years.

As an indication of how close we were, I found a letter he wrote to me on Jan. 21, 1957, while he was in the Army. So today I will act the part of Dear Abby, the former columnist who appeared in the Star Tribune and tried to answer readers’ problems, and reprint that letter.

Dear Sid:

It was sure nice hearing from you. I thank you for the help you’ve given me in connection with my decision as to what I’m going to do when I get out of the Army next fall.

I was wondering what type of job this would be at Cargo Carriers Inc. [a branch of Cargill] if I were accepted.

Stan Hubbard wants me to get in over at KSTP, etc., as I told you earlier.

[Then-Gophers sports information director] Otis Dypwick wrote and asked if I were interested in a teaching and coaching position at St. Louis Park, so you can see where I’m still confused as to how to decide.

I guess I just feel I’m not qualified to do anything but teach and coach and that’s why I’m rather undecided when it comes to choosing between coaching and a job in the business world.

I’m quite sure Carol and I are going to have another addition to the family next fall. Unofficial as yet though. Our son is sure getting big. No skates for him this year though.

We leave for Europe Feb. 2nd. Expect to arrive back around March 25th. I believe I’ll be stationed around Boston till I get out in Oct.

I’ll keep you informed as to how we’re doing overseas, etc., and thanks again for helping me like this.

Sincerely, Johnny

Yes, in the days when everything wasn’t a conflict of interest, you could be friends with athletes in a way you can’t today. But I still have a close relationship with Mayasich, and it’s great to see the university honor him.


• The University of Minnesota Board of Regents is expected to approve the agreement between the university and the Vikings for the NFL team to play two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium while the Vikings’ new stadium is being built. The agreement will make the stadium better by bringing in a heated field, 2,200 more seats in the open end of the stadium, a big improvement of the concessions stands and heat in the stadium concourses.

• Former Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith got his most impressive victory with Texas Tech when the Red Raiders upset Oklahoma 68-60 in Norman, Okla., on Wednesday. Oklahoma had only one other home loss this season, a 90-83 loss to Kansas in January. Smith and the Red Raiders have won three consecutive Big 12 Conference games and are now at 5-6 and seventh in the league. Smith will face former Timberwolves player and executive Fred Hoiberg and the No. 11 Iowa State Cyclones in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday.

• NewJersey.com ran an article on former Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, who has transferred to Rutgers and spent time working out with former Rutgers coach Terry Shea, now a quarterback trainer in Phoenix. Shea said this about Nelson: “I really liked him. I liked his work ethic. He was bright, intelligent. He carries a 3.6 GPA out of high school and college, so he’s got that innate intelligence that you like. But he’s got a really good quarterback IQ. He knows and understands the game.”

• Linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who recently signed with the Vikings, was defensive captain of the Gophers in 2009 and a real leader. He played for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats last year and had 52 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions.

• While there has been some criticism of the Timberwolves’ 2013 draft, President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has contended from the time he drafted UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad — who scored 12 points in 17 minutes against Portland on Saturday — that maybe if Muhammad gets a chance to play, he will contribute. ”There was a good opportunity out there and it was a good opportunity for me,” Muhammad said.

• Former Minnesota Mr. Basketball Kevin Noreen, who broke the state scoring record with an unofficial total of 4,086 points at Minnesota Transitions, is averaging only 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game for West Virginia.

• The Positive Coaching Alliance Minnesota will have a “Breakfast with the Champions” event Feb. 19 at 7:30 a.m. at the Metropolitan Club at Target Field. Gophers football coach Jerry Kill, Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve will take part in a panel discussion.

• Look for Melvin Holland Jr. from Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va., to fill some of the holes the Gophers have had at wide receiver. The 6-3, 190-pounder led his team to a 13-2 record and, while his team lost the state title game to L.C. Bird High School, Holland caught five passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the game.


Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com