John Mariucci, an All-America for the Gophers hockey team and a rare U.S.-born player in the NHL in the 1940s, was the primary builder of the Gophers' program for 14 years and helped create the enthusiasm for high school hockey in the state.
Lou Nanne, a native Canadian recruited by Mariucci to play at the university, said, "Because of his beliefs in the Minnesota boy to perform at top levels and getting them the opportunity, he is the most obvious foundation of Minnesota programs today. He is the reason boys have the opportunity to get an education, play college, pro and international hockey.
"When I was in school (in the early '60s), he was making 150 appearances a year around the state selling hockey to people who didn't have hockey. You have to have a grass-roots foundation, and he was relentless in his efforts. He never quit. If he got paid by the hour, he'd be a billionaire."
Mariucci, a native of Eveleth, Minn., played professional hockey for 12 seasons, including five seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL. Following his playing career, he coached the Gophers hockey team from 1952 to 1955 and from 1956 to 1966. He took a year off from coaching the Gophers to coach the silver-medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1956. Following his coaching career, he was a longtime assistant general manager and scout for the Minnesota North Stars.
Mariucci is a member of the U.S. Hockey and Hockey Hall of Fame. The University of Minnesota named the hockey portion of Williams Arena after him on March 2, 1985.
Team: Gophers, North Stars, U.S. Olympic team.