Ed Saugestad, as coach of the Augsburg College men’s hockey team, had a phenomenal run, with more than 500 career victories. From 1958 through 1996, the soft-spoken coach led his Auggies to national prominence, enlisting his entire family to help with the effort.
Saugestad, of Brooklyn Center, died March 20 of pancreatic cancer. He was 77.
“The Auggie hockey family feels the loss of its heart and soul with the passing of our great coach Ed Saugestad,” said current Augsburg coach Chris Brown. “His legacy as a coach, teacher, mentor and all of the above is beyond remarkable.”
Saugestad, a 1959 alumnus, began his hockey coaching career in 1958, during his senior year. He was fair and competitive, and found joy in not only games but in each practice, friends said.
Augsburg and its alumni have lost a great man who touched many lives in a positive way, said athletic director Jeff Swenson.
“Ed Saugestad is, plain and simply, a legend,” Swenson said. “He’s a legend in the classroom and a legend as a three-time national championship coach. We look up to Ed and the example he set for all of us. His legacy lives on.”
With his 503-354-21 record, Saugestad led the Auggies to qualify for national tournament play 10 times. They won the NAIA national championships in 1978, 1981 and 1982. From 1977 through 1982, under his tenure, the Auggies won six Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles.
Saugestad coached 22 All-Americas along the way.
Off the ice, many players still turned to the coach they called “Big Man” for advice.
“He was the guy who was like your dad,” said former men’s hockey coach Mike Schwartz, who played under Saugestad, took classes from him and replaced him when Saugestad retired. “It was the little stuff that he did every day. When you build it on top of each other, and look at the end of his life, that was phenomenal.”
Saugestad was NAIA national coach of the year three times. He was the MIAC coach of the year six times, with a playoff championship trophy named after him.
He won the American Hockey Coaches Association’s John MacInnes Award in 2002 for fostering the growth of amateur hockey. And in 2007, Saugestad was the Hobey Baker Legends of Hockey honoree.
In 2010, Augsburg Ice Arena’s main rink was renamed in his honor. The athletic department named its academic award for male student-athletes the Ed Saugestad Academic Award, too.
Saugestad also was on Augsburg’s football coaching staff from 1959 to 1984, including two years as head coach. He served as the college’s men’s athletic director from 1981 to 1987.
He taught five courses during the school year, from health concepts to the physiology of exercise, drawing out students’ best, Schwartz said. “He was a better teacher than he was a coach,” he said. “He prepared you for what you were going to be doing in the real world.”
Schwartz, now a financial planner for small businesses, said that to this day he uses the work ethic and preparedness that Saugestad taught him: “Follow through and take care of details, and then plan ahead. Ed didn’t leave anything to chance.”
A kidney problem in 1995 led to seven surgeries in six weeks for Saugestad, said his daughter, Mary Saugestad. Upon retiring in 1996, he told the Star Tribune how a health problem can change a person’s perspective on life.
“It made me think about what things I wanted to do, like go backpacking off in the Boundary Waters,” he said.
In addition to his wife, Shirley, and daughter, Mary, he is survived by his son, Ed “Chip,” and two grandsons.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. next Thursday, at the Augsburg College Chapel.