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John Mayasich

John Mayasich

John E. Mayasich was born May 22, 1933, in Eveleth, Minnesota. He attended Eveleth High School and participated in a number of sports. Mayasich is regarded by many as one of the best American born Ice Hockey players of all-time even though he never played professionally. During his high school hockey career he set many individual records and helped his team achieve additional team records that stand even today. Among those records are the 46 total points he recorded at numerous state tournament games and helping his team win four consecutive state high school championships from 1948-51 with the Eveleth Golden Bears. John was a member of the 1956 Winter Olympics team that won the silver medal and the 1960 Olympic team that won the gold medal, Johns 1960 Olympic jersey is on display at the USHHOF today. John played in 2 playoff games for the Minneapolis Millers Hockey team during the 1961-1962 season (which was allowed in the IHL at teh time to pick up players for the playoffs) Mayasich reportedly turned down a number of offers from NHL teams and participated in a number of hockey world championship tournaments (1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1966, and 1969) in addition to the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.

While attending the University of Minnesota, Mayasich set the NCAA tournament record for most points scored in a game with seven against Boston College in 1954. Mayasich won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association scoring title in 1954 and 1955 and was an All-American three years in a row at his university. Mayasich's #8 is the only retired number today by the Historic Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey program. Mayasich was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989.

"For my money, John Mayasich was the best American hockey player that I've ever seen." — Jack McCartan Minnesota's men's hockey team will do something Saturday night it has never done before in its 77-year history. The Gophers will retire the number of one of their own. Former Gopher and Olympic champion John Mayasich will have his number 8 retired before the Gophers game against top-ranked North Dakota.

The Eveleth, Minn., native is the Gophers' all-time leading scorer with 144 goals and 154 assists in 111 games played. That comes out to an average of about 1.3 goals per game. Mayasich is a hockey legend -- and an inventor. He was the first to use what's become the most recognizable staple of hockey: the slapshot. "I really can't remember the first time I used it," Mayasich said. "It was a big advantage for me, and it wasn't too long until others in the league began to use it. It was the equivalent to the jump shot in basketball." Not only did Mayasich destroy records in the college ranks -- he still owns all Minnesota scoring records -- he was equally lethal in the high school ranks. Mayasich still holds most state tournament records, but a pair of Gophers, Dave Spehar and John Pohl, have since broken his all-time career scoring mark. But as coach Doug Woog says, it still takes nothing away from Mayasich's accomplishments. "We drew the parallel with Dave Spehar," Woog said. "He (Spehar) was the most contemporary state tournament phenom; he had three hat tricks. John had seven. His numbers are phenomenal."

Although Mayasich was a dominant force in the college ranks, he never chose to turn pro. The Iron Ranger had other commitments. "I was in the ROTC program when I was at the U," Mayasich said. "I had a two-year obligation. I played in the 1956 Olympics that was coached by (former Gophers coach John) Mariucci. I took my degree in education. And with three kids in my family and only six teams in the National Hockey League, I accepted a job at Stanley Hubbard (broadcasting). I don't regret any of it."

The late Mariucci said Mayasich compares with hockey's all-time best players. "John brought college hockey to a new plateau," Mariucci once said. "He was the Wayne Gretzky of his time. And today if he were playing pro hockey, he would simply be a bigger, stronger, back-checking Gretzky." Those are strong words, coming from one legend to another. But Mayasich said the comparison isn't quite fair. "I don't think Gretzky back-checked that much," Mayasich said. "I don't think I ever did. The comparison would be being able to see the ice in play-making and being where the puck would end up. I'm honored that John said that."

The standard Mayasich set is one that will likely never be reached, but will always be strived for. And the player Mayasich was is still something every Gophers player strives to be.

"When something like this happens, like the retirement of John's number," senior right wing Mike Anderson said, "as a player, you take the time to think about how lucky and fortunate you are to wear the 'M' and be a part of this rich tradition.

It's people like Mayasich who made this a tradition, and my hat goes off to them."

From the Minnesota Daily Nov. 13 1998