Reusse: Hockey pioneer at Hill and U let his play do the talking

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 22, 2011 - 10:38 AM

Billy Klatt, now in hospice care, starred for the Gophers and Fighting Saints.

hide

Bill Klatt with the Gophers in the late 1960s.

Harry Caray once said of a future Twins Hall of Famer, "With a name like Rod Carew, you have to be able to hit.''

The same theory could be used on a legendary Minnesota hockey player: "With a name like Billy Klatt, you have to be able to score goals.''

The puck, the sticks, the passes ... clat, clat, clat, across the ice, and then a goal.

Mike Kurtz, a Klatt teammate with the Gophers, said: "Billy was a silent star. He didn't draw attention to himself, even when he scored a goal.''

Denny Grabowski grew up playing hockey with Klatt at Hayden Heights Park on the East Side of St. Paul. Later, they would enroll at Hill High School, the new Catholic school in Maplewood, as part of the Class of '65.

"Bill was very quiet, even as a kid,'' Grabowski said.

Billy Klatt's quiet manner did not change when it became apparent a few weeks ago that his three-year battle with leukemia was coming to end. Grabowski and a couple of other friends contacted Wednesday were surprised to learn Klatt, 64, is in hospice care and close to death at his home in Afton.

Klatt led the WCHA in scoring as a Gophers junior in 1967-68 with 23 goals and 20 assists in 31 games. He scored 36 goals for the Fighting Saints in the first World Hockey Association season of 1972-73. He set an NCAA record for fastest goal by scoring five seconds into a game vs. Michigan on Jan. 13, 1968. He scored the first goal ever in the new St. Paul Civic Center for the Fighting Saints on Jan. 1, 1973.

Yet, if you write Minnesota hockey history from the pickup games through the pros, Billy Klatt can be remembered as the player who turned Hill (and then Hill-Murray) into a hockey school.

"I don't think that's an exaggeration,'' Grabowski said. "Hill opened in the fall of 1959. A couple of years later, we started playing, and we would have games on Sunday afternoons in the old Central Catholic league at the Minneapolis arena.

"We didn't have a team bus. We had to get there on our own. And we were skating two lines and three defensemen.''

Billy Klatt started scoring goals and getting Hill hockey mentioned in the Twin Cities dailies. More hockey players showed up. Ramsey County opened Aldrich Arena, not far from the high school.

"By the time we were done as seniors, we had given Hill hockey a good start -- and it turned into quite a tradition,'' Grabowski said.

As seniors, those early Pioneers lost in three overtimes to Duluth Cathedral in the final of the state independent tournament.

Hill would win a state independent title in 1970 and then another as Hill-Murray in 1972. The private schools were admitted to the Minnesota State High School League in 1974. The Pioneers have 22 state tournament appearances and titles in 1983, 1991 and 2008.

Billy's father, William Sr., played for Johnson High and then the Gophers. Billy might have followed the same path, if the Catholic high school hadn't opened right up the road.

"I played a lot of hockey with Bill and a lot of hockey against him on the East Side,'' Grabowski said. "As a player, he was 'always there' ... one of those special guys who always seemed to know where the puck was going to be.''

Mike (Lefty) Curran was a star goalie for International Falls, and then North Dakota. That's when he first encountered Klatt ... Sioux vs. Gophers.

"In the '60s, there were still a lot of hockey players that hadn't mastered the hook stick,'' Curran said. "Billy was one who had it mastered. He was an average skater, and average size, but he could launch the puck. There was something on it when a shot came off his stick.''

Klatt scored 42 goals in 61 games in his last two seasons for the Gophers. He had 34 goals in back-to-back seasons for the Bruins' Oklahoma City farm club. The Saints got Klatt out of the minors for two seasons. Later, he played four years in Austria, before returning to the Twin Cities to become a successful businessman.

Billy Klatt's name strikes a loud note with Minnesota's long-time hockey followers, including as the pioneer of the Pioneers.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 2 FINAL
St. Louis 5
Washington 9 FINAL
Atlanta 8
Miami 5 FINAL
Boston 3
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 1
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 5
Detroit - LP: J. Mantiply 4 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: C. Torres 5
Cincinnati 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Los Angeles 10 FINAL
Milwaukee 1
San Francisco 12 FINAL
Texas 3
Chicago WSox 0 FINAL
San Diego 5
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Cleveland 9
Seattle 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 7
Colorado 0 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 7 FINAL
Arizona 2
Pittsburgh 0 Top 2nd Inning
NY Yankees 0
Chicago 20 2nd Qtr
Indiana 23
Sacramento 25 1st Qtr 0:32
Orlando 33
Utah 21 1st Qtr 0:55
Philadelphia 20
Miami 18 1st Qtr 0:15
Washington 40
Toronto 24 2nd Qtr
Charlotte 25
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Boston 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Detroit 7:00 PM
Houston
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Memphis
Phoenix 7:00 PM
Brooklyn
Denver 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Dallas 9:30 PM
Golden State
Columbus 1 1st Prd 4:07
New Jersey 0
Minnesota 1 1st Prd 4:10
Carolina 0
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 6:30 PM
Detroit
Edmonton 7:30 PM
Chicago
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 68 FINAL
Char Southern 60
Ark-Pine Bluff 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 75
Southern Ill 45 FINAL
Wichita State 56
Winthrop 67 FINAL
Radford 66
Evansville 67 FINAL
Illinois State 71
Towson 49 2nd Half 7:33
Elon 53
Gardner-Webb 57 2nd Half 4:13
High Point 55
Samford 50 2nd Half 9:57
UNC Greensboro 55
Northern Ill 8 1st Half 8:39
Ball State 13
Bowling Green 23 1st Half 6:51
Buffalo 16
Brown 29 1st Half 5:04
Dartmouth 14
Toledo 22 1st Half 6:18
Eastern Mich 15
Akron 21 1st Half 5:00
Kent State 28
Ill-Chicago 15 1st Half 6:05
Oakland 26
Miami-Ohio 14 1st Half 7:40
Ohio 33
Columbia 5 1st Half 7:55
Penn 16
Cornell 19 1st Half 6:51
Princeton 24
Central Mich 17 1st Half 7:28
Western Mich 24
Bradley 8 1st Half 6:13
Northern Iowa 21
Morehead State 8 1st Half 17:30
Murray State 6
UNC-Asheville 7:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Yale 7:00 PM
Harvard
Furman 7:30 PM
Citadel
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
Drexel
Texas Tech 8:00 PM
Baylor
Pacific 8:00 PM
San Francisco
Detroit 8:30 PM
Cleveland State
Belmont 8:30 PM
Eastern Ky
Loyola-Chicago 8:35 PM
Indiana State
Loyola Marymount 10:30 PM
Santa Clara
Chicago 9:00 PM
Los Angeles
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
(21) George Washington 77
Wake Forest 68 FINAL
(16) Duke 77
Furman 55 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 68
Monmouth 61 FINAL
Quinnipiac 82
Michigan State 60 FINAL
(4) Maryland 70
Belmont 65 FINAL
UT Martin 71
Arkansas 36 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 58
Mercer 56 FINAL
East Tenn St 66
Richmond 45 FINAL
Fordham 46
Miami-Florida 61 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Siena 61 FINAL
Iona 71
Washington St 48 FINAL
(9) Arizona State 67
Ark-Pine Bluff 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 51
(23) Rutgers 57 FINAL
(24) Northwestern 62
Tennessee St 71 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 59
Loyola Marymount 50 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
(18) Texas A&M 65 FINAL
LSU 71
Cincinnati 76 FINAL
UCF 66
Saint Josephs 61 FINAL
Dayton 80
UCLA 62 FINAL
(19) Stanford 67
Santa Clara 42 FINAL
San Diego 51
Virginia Tech 30 2nd Half 7:38
(7) Florida State 68
SMU 40 2nd Half 10:35
Memphis 55
Lehigh 61 2nd Half 6:15
Holy Cross 49
Rhode Island 25 1st Half 5:06
Duquesne 23
North Florida 10 1st Half 5:42
(20) Fla Gulf Coast 25
Kennesaw St 23 1st Half 7:16
Jacksonville 19
USC Upstate 7 1st Half 7:46
Northern Ky 16
Lipscomb 17 1st Half 4:58
Stetson 34
Nebraska 24 1st Half 5:42
(14) Iowa 31
Saint Peters 17 1st Half 4:59
Marist 16
Navy 14 1st Half 7:01
Bucknell 18
Lafayette 16 1st Half 8:02
American Univ 25
Colgate 8 1st Half 5:38
Army 14
Georgia 9 1st Half 7:53
(5) Tennessee 20
Dartmouth 28 1st Half 4:04
Brown 15
Penn 17 1st Half 6:45
Columbia 8
(13) Princeton 33 1st Half 5:03
Cornell 15
Kansas 8 1st Half 6:42
Kansas State 19
Harvard 36 1st Half 2:06
Yale 30
(15) North Carolina 7:00 PM
(10) Louisville
San Jose St 7:00 PM
UNLV
Houston 7:00 PM
Tulane
Utah State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Colorado 8:00 PM
(8) Oregon State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Minnesota 8:25 PM
Ohio State
(12) Kentucky 8:25 PM
(11) Miss State
San Diego State 8:30 PM
Nevada
Niagara 8:30 PM
Fairfield
Texas Tech 8:30 PM
West Virginia
Boise State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Washington 10:30 PM
California
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close