The Boys of Winter
by Wes Frahm
Few forces are powerful enough to bring together a group of 70-year-old men from the corners of North America and beyond.
The occasion was the 50th anniversary of Michigan Tech’s first national championship—the 1962 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey title.
The Huskies won twenty straight games to finish the season, including a 7–1 victory over Clarkson in the national title game in Utica, New York.
US Hockey Hall of Fame coach John MacInnes assembled the group that went on to become a who’s who of Michigan Tech hockey, among them Lou Angotti, Jerry Sullivan, Elov Seger, and Gary Bauman.
Michigan Tech and the Copper Country love to celebrate their hockey heritage, especially this legendary team. But for these guys, coming to campus was a family reunion.
“I played on a lot of hockey teams in my life, but I remember every one of my teammates at Michigan Tech,” said Al Patterson, a forward. “We lived in the barracks together, ate together, and played together. We were a family.”
Bob Pallante echoed the sentiments. “The on-going memory of my time at Tech was the barracks. Living as a group made us a family. Sure we had our disagreements, but nothing could have brought us closer together as a team.”
Members of the 1961–62 hockey family traveled from Florida, Colorado, British Columbia, and even Libya to be on campus October 5–7. Of the 21 team members, 17 are still living. All 17 made it back to Houghton.
“Isn’t that something,” said Sullivan, who served as team captain. “It’s nice to have so many guys back.”
Michigan Tech Athletics inducted the team into its Sports Hall of Fame October 5, the first squad to be so honored. “I went in as an individual, but this is nice,” said Sullivan. “To be inducted with the guys you played with makes it special.”
The team also gathered at Dee Stadium to share memories, ate together at the Dog House, and was introduced at the Michigan Tech football and hockey games.
Before the hockey game, members of the 1961–62 team joined current players in the locker room, where they were presented with replica jerseys from their championship season. Several said it was among the most moving experiences of their lives.
“The weekend was far beyond my expectations,” said Phil McVittie. “We were treated like royalty.”
Throughout the reunion, memories flowed.
Assistant coach Bill Lucier told stories about how different college hockey was in 1962.
“We didn’t have a Zamboni at Dee Stadium. The players had to scrape the ice after practice. I can’t imagine [current] Coach [Mel] Pearson telling his recruits they would have to scrape the ice after practice.
“I was in charge of hauling laundry back and forth from Dee Stadium. It got to be later in the season, and we kept missing more and more of our socks. I went to visit the guys at the barracks, and noticed that the socks were being used for insulation filling the cracks in the walls.”
MacInnes, who died in 1983, remains the team’s central figure.
“John was a great man,” said Lou Angotti, who went on to a ten-year NHL career. “He sat down with my parents at our home in Toronto, and when he was leaving my father said, ‘You’re going with him.’ So I did, and it was a great decision.”
“It was excellent playing for John,” said John Ivanitz. “He was more than a father figure. He was just so easy to work with. Between him and Bill [Lucier], we loved playing for them.”
Many shared stories on how they chose Tech. Often it was simply a phone call from MacInnes.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to make campus visits in those days,” said Patterson. “John made me feel very comfortable. I chose to come to Houghton sight unseen because of that conversation.”
Pallante came to Tech on a football scholarship because there were no hockey scholarships left.
“Coach MacInnes told me he wanted me on the team, but didn’t have a scholarship. He said, ‘Wait a minute. You’re a pretty good football player, right? I’ll call you right back.’ An hour later, I had a football scholarship. I came to Tech and played football and hockey.”
All went on to successful careers, some in professional hockey, others in business, and all would have picked Tech again, realizing what hockey and a Michigan Tech education did for them.
“It was a great choice,” said Angotti. “My father was right.”