Bruce Telander’s love of hockey and charity could be seen all the way from his back yard to the University of Minnesota campus.

Without request, he meticulously turned the lake behind his house into a skating rink each year for his daughters. He used the same quiet but determined approach when he was planning the construction of Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota.

A dedicated alumnus of the Gophers men’s hockey team, Telander spent much of his life doing philanthropy, including behind-the-scenes work with U athletic officials to help players and the program.

“He always did these things as a leader, but he never took any credit for them,” said Dave Knoblauch, who helped Telander with planning Mariucci Arena in the late 1980s and considered him a close friend. “He was the man behind the curtain, directing and leading.”

Telander got a diagnosis of mesothelioma in January and died on April 13, his birthday. He had just turned 81.

He pursued a bachelor’s degree in business at the U after graduating from South St. Paul High School in 1952. He met his wife, Barbara Johnson, in his senior year at a fraternity-sorority event. The two attended Gophers games nearly every weekend after their first date.

Telander skated for the hockey team during his freshman year until the late John Mariucci, his coach, requested that he sit out. He stepped into a management role shortly after, and his passion for the program never waned.

In the 1960s and ’70s, when NCAA recruitment rules were less stringent than today’s, Telander scouted players by offering full-tuition scholarships and a place to stay.

His daughter Traci Telander said she remembers as a child playing pond hockey with the players — some of whom went on to form the 1980 Olympic “Miracle” team — on the back-yard rink at their home in Sunfish Lake, Minn.

“He practically adopted them as they were going through the program,” Knoblauch said. “The character of the whole program was built around Bruce’s belief that these were really good people.”

He later co-founded the school’s first booster clubs for men’s hockey, and most notably directed the construction of Mariucci Arena through fundraising and coordination efforts.

“He was a Gopher right to the core and a great supporter of University of Minnesota athletics,” said U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne, “and [just] as good a friend.”

Telander’s philanthropic work extended to Mendota Heights’ Somerset Country Club, where he caddied as a teen. Years later, he became the club’s president. He co-founded a scholarship fund for its employees.

When he wasn’t helping the golf or U hockey program, Telander worked at Minneapolis-based construction insurance agency, Cobb Strecker Dunphy and Zimmermann. This year he began his 55th with the company.

A wave of memories hit daughter Traci Telander on her way home to take care of her father a few months ago. She saw her neighbors playing hockey on the same frozen lake that she skated on decades ago with her dad.

“It took me back to my childhood — the noise of the puck hitting the wood,” she said. “I just had a big smile on my face.”

Telander is survived by his wife, Barbara; three daughters, Terri, Traci, Toni; and four grandchildren. Services were held May 8.

 

Jessica Lee is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.