The series of a half-dozen articles suggested by sports readers that appeared in this past week’s Star Tribune included a look back at Minneapolis Southwest’s 1-0 victory over Edina in the 1970 state hockey tournament — one-class, boys-only at that time.
Any mention of that historic victory for a Minneapolis high school brings a reminder of Dave Peterson, and the coach we knew at Southwest, and the enemy of the media he turned himself into as the coach of Team USA at the 1988 Olympics. The transformation of Peterson from the gruff good guy I covered as a prep reporter to his hostility in mass interviews in Calgary was astounding.
As it turned out, the deep thinkers at the Amateur Hockey Association of U.S. wanted Peterson to take this role. Bob Johnson, Art Berglund and others at AHAUS decided the failure of the 1984 team (seventh place) was based on players putting too much pressure on themselves.
An unnamed U.S. player was quoted on Peterson’s media battle during the ’88 tournament as saying:
“The coach figures if he acts like this, he’ll be a lightning rod. If there’s criticism, it will be put on him, not the players.”
Peterson’s No. 1 opponent was Klaus Zaugg, a reporter for a German-language newspaper in Switzerland. He started questioning Peterson early on because of the team’s freewheeling offense and lax defense.
By the end, when the U.S. lost to West Germany and was eliminated from medal contention, Zaugg was saying to Peterson: “What is your system, Coach? You have no system.”
The U.S. roster was loaded with future NHLers — Brian Leetch, Kevin Stevens, Tony Granato, Kevin Miller, etc. — but the goaltenders were in a shooting gallery.
Alleged defenseman Eric Weinrich was a special treat, rushing full speed ahead, with no regard to how many breakaways he might be creating for goalie Mike Richter or Chris Terreri.
Team USA scored 27 goals and gave up 27 goals before defeating Zaugg’s Swiss heroes 8-4 for seventh place. “I know I can coach,” Peterson said as he departed Calgary.
He proved that four years later in Albertville, France, coaching a less-talented Olympic team to fourth.
• Peterson moved to Colorado Springs and worked as the technical director for USA Hockey (the replacement for AHAUS). He was 66 when he died in 1997 after undergoing heart bypass surgery.
• Minnesotans Corey Millen, Dave Snuggerud, Todd Okerlund, Guy Gosselin and Jim Johannson were on Peterson’s 1988 team.
• Tom Chorske was the last player cut in ’88. Former Gopher John Blue was the No. 3 goalie and didn’t get to play.
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