Q. This is Kyle from Vintage Minnesota Hockey sitting down with Glen Sonmor. I really appreciate you taking the time to sit down and do this interview with us today, Glen.
A. Thanks, Kyle. My pleasure.
Q. Glen, you truly are a Minnesota hockey icon. Your Minnesota hockey experiences including playing with the Millers in ’49-’50, serving as head coach for the Gophers from ’65-’71, head coach and general and manager for the Minnesota Fighting Saints from ’72-’76, coaching for the North Stars in three different stints, from ’72-’83, ’84-’85 and ’86-’87, compiling a coaching record of 174-161-82 in 417 games for the North Stars, and led the club to their fascinating first Stanley Cup appearance in ’81. From the Stars to the IHL's Minnesota Moose from ’94-’96 as director of player development. To today as an amateur scout for the Minnesota Wild, and radio analyst for the Gophers. Wow, looking back on all of this, it must be something for yourself.
A. It certainly is! I realize how lucky I am. I was told by a lot of people, my high school basketball coach, that the most important thing in life is to do what you love. I hear Harvey McKay say that, do what you want, love what you do, and deliver more than you promise, that's a great guide for life. I had a high school basketball coach whom I had great respect for. He also coached me in baseball, too. So I went and asked him what I should do. He told me, Kyle, it’s... This is the kind of guy he was, that’s why I went to him. He wasn’t a high school coach, or teacher rather, he was an accountant, but he coached our high school basketball team, and he had everything organized, so I knew when I asked him what I should do, ‘cause I was finishing high school and I was concerned about what was I going to do. I knew I wanted to go to college but I didn’t know what I wanted to take, and I had... it sounds like boasting, but I was a good student and I thought I wanted to be a physical education teacher, but I had some teachers were saying, "oh, Glen, you’ll be bored bouncing a ball around, you should be a lawyer." That’s probably because I talked too much even then. But I knew it, I said, I’ll go to George, he’ll tell me. So I went to George Ferris was his name, and I said George, just as I knew he would, he said, here’s what you do. Step 1 – take a day and go by yourself somewhere where you’re not going to be interrupted and be absolutely honest with yourself and say what do I love to do best in life, when I have no demands from my parents, and money is not, I don’t have to make money, what gives you just joy to do. That’s step 1. Decide what that is. Step 2 is go and find the profession that is most closely aligned to that, and I don’t care if it’s building model airplanes, there is a profession closely aligned to what you love to do. So that’s step 2, decide what that is. Step 3 is go and get the best preparation you can get for that career or whatever you want to call it. I don’t care if it means you have go get a PhD, go get a PhD. If it means you gotta go to trade school ‘cause you like that kind of stuff, then go to trade school. But he said, do that, and he said get into that with your enthusiasm and passion for it and don’t worry about making money or success. You will be successful and, he said, I’ll tell you why you’ll be successful, too. You won’t be looking at the clock and saying gosh, it’s only 3:00 and I gotta work till 5:30, or worse than that, you won’t be saying, gosh, it’s only Tuesday and I don’t get a day off till Saturday, or worst of all you won’t be saying, it’s only March the 15 and I don’t have my vacation till August the 12th. And people live like that. Well, I had a dad who had trouble with alcohol, that I was to have later so that was part of it, but also he had never had a chance to get any, but I watched a very unhappy life for him, because he never really wound up doing anything he loved to do. So for me that was easy. I was gonna, go back to my idea of being a physical education teacher, because that was around sports, and that’s all I cared about. So I remember that, and I’d been so blessed that my whole life now, I kid with my friends and as I said, "I’ve reached retirement age, I’ve never had a real job, and I’ve never faxed anything." (laughing)
Q. Good for you Glen, that is something to be proud of.
A. I laughed at my first memories of Minnesota because so many of the teams that I was associated with later go out of business – the Fighting Saints, the Stars, Moose, and well there was that team that used to play at 28th and Dupont with Lyle Wright running the rink. We were in the USHL, it was called, with Omaha, Kansas City, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Louisville, and St. Paul. Six of us. And we won the championship and the team folded and moved to Denver. It didn’t affect me because Minneapolis was Cleveland’s farm team, and they took three of us from that team to Cleveland the next year, Hergesheimer who was a great little player, and Sammy Lavitta, jewish defenseman, we took him too to Cleveland the next year. But Maroosh, they went to Denver, well, he wasn’t gonna do that. Well then he played one more year with, St. Paul still had a team. He played there. He told them he was only gonna play the home games. Well once they got started he said he played all of em', but anyway. But John, what people don’t realize about John, John was just a great skater, powerful, powerful. You know what’s amazing. I say this and I hope I’m not wrong. By my memory, John told me he had played in something like in his 100th hockey game ever when he played in the National Hockey League. We gotta remember they played, like even John is older than I when we were young in Canada. We didn't get started, I played bantam when I was about 13 or 14, it was the first team I ever played with, we were playing on an outside rink. We only played about ten games a year. It was a different era then, you know. John got to the NHL, well, you know he played very, very little hockey. But he was a powerful, powerful skater. He wasn’t a great puck handler, although he could lug the puck and he loved to hit you because you know he played as an end with the football team too. And he played offensive and defensive end too in those days. What was great about him, he used to tell a story. On our team, we were all Canadians except him and that’s when he told me when we met, and he found out farely early that I could play some and he loved that so he was helping me, he was giving me some pointers about my game. But the other thing was, he’s told me this, I’ll never forget, he said, "Kid, he said, you (I was 20 then and he was 34), he said, I’ve played pro hockey for ten years now, a little interrupted by World War II a little bit, but about ten years", he said. "All of my teammates are Canadian." There weren’t any Russians. There weren’t any Americans. It was just him. Well he might of played, I don't think LoPresti played in Chicago with him, I think they were, well that is what he told me, but mostly all his teammates had been Canadian. He said, "you’re the first one I’ve ever met who finished high school." So he said, "you’re going to college, to school." He took me. We were right in the playoffs, that finals with Omaha that year, and the spring quarter, the University was in a quarter system, he took me and I was thinking "whatever John says I was gonna do". But you know when you look at it what a blessing that turned out for me, because I was determined I was gonna get a degree. In Canada, or Ontario, the province that I lived in, we had an additional year in high school. We went through grade 13, and they later allowed me to transfer those 13 credits for a full year here. Well I started going, I went that spring quarter and summer session. So the break for me was when the horrible accident happened to me in Pittsburgh, I was 24 years old, gonna be 25 in a week or so, or maybe I was 25. Let’s see it was in ‘55. Yeah, and I was born in ’29. That was in February of '55, so I was 25, and I was going to be 26 in a couple of weeks. When that happened to me, I am laying in the hospital in Pittsburgh. I was playing for Cleveland but we were playing in Pittsburgh. My wife had given birth to our daughter, who is the only child we have, four days earlier. And in those days they kept you in the hospital longer. So she’s in the hospital in Cleveland, and I’m in the hospital in Pittsburgh. And I’m lying there and the doctor, who was a wonderful man, would come in and visit me everyday just to try and keep my spirits up, they were keeping me still because of all the swelling that was up. The puck hit me flush in the eye. I found out later they really just did it for my satisfaction that I wasn’t gonna see out of it any more. Because every day I would wake up and put a hand over my good eye and see if I could see now today, you know. So the doctor told me we gotta stop you from doing that. The other thing, after a while, they would take it out because they were afraid it might affect the other eye. They tell me that with a sharp instrument like if you stuck a scissors in your eye or something, they would take that eye out right away, but I don't understand that. But anyway, when I’m lying there and I am thinking "what in the world am I gonna do, you know." And I'm crushed of course that I am not going to be able to play again, but I’m more scared, I guess, of what am I gonna do for a living, and this tells you about John Mariucci. As soon as they would, ahhahh you know this was, I’d come back to summer school all the time and we kept in touch. But we, you know we hadn't been together. But John’s a wonderful friend. As soon as they would let the call come through, John called me, and I’ll never forget it on the phone. What he said is, "Don’t worry about anything, Glen. I’ve arranged for you to be the freshman coach at the University next year so you can finish up your course work."
Q. As you were laying in the hospital?
A. Yeah, I’m laying in the hospital. Yeah, he called me.
Q. Oh, that’s something.
A. Four days or so after it happened. They wouldn’t let any calls come through I think for a few days. As soon as they let a call come through, he’d heard about it, of course. What a wonderful man. We’re sent guardian angels in our life and John Mariucci was one for me. But I’m rambling on here.
Q. No, that’s a great story. I think you answered this next question a little bit already. But, in 1953 you played your first NHL game with the Rangers. Where did you play hockey prior to that?
A. I started out like any Canadian kid. Actually, mine was a strange kind of case, ‘cause I, ahh, again this will sound like boasting a bit, but I was a high school athlete in a little town, and I was the leading scorer on the basketball team. I was the quarterback on the football team. We didn’t play baseball with the school, because they didn't think that summer was, you know, but I played for a, for like ahh, but actually won after awhile I actually played for a semi-pro team. I was a pitcher in baseball. And hockey, for awhile during the winter I played both basketball and hockey. When I was in high school, I played for the basketball team, and that was at school. And then I played with a midget or juvenile AH under 17, or under 19 hockey team. So, I didn’t have any thought of being a pro hockey player. Probably, hockey was, I hadn’t done nearly as much of that as I’d done the other sports. But what happened was, the one year we had a ahh, I’d play basketball and some nights the guy’d come pick me up in the car and take me to play hockey after that. My baseball coach was the same guy as my basketball coach, he was the guy I told you about that gave me all that advice. He coached me in baseball, too, and I had great respect for him. So he came to me and said, "Glen, he said, I’m not gonna let you play both sports again this year. You’re gonna kill yourself Glen." He said. It really crushed me as a young athlete, he said, "I’ve never seen you play hockey. I’ve had you in my basketball, I’ve had you in baseball. He was the coach of our baseball team too, and I’ve seen you play football, he said. I’ve never seen you play hockey. But he said my advice to you is quit basketball and play hockey." And we won the city championship the year before. I led the league in scoring, as a 17-year-old kid, 16 I guess going to be 17, I looked right at him, I laugh about that now till this day. I looked right at him and I said (his name was George Ferris), I said, "but George, I’m your star." And he said, "I know you are, Glen, but I’m telling you this, they don’t come up here looking for 5’10”, I guess they didn’t call us point guards then, basketball players. They don’t come up looking for 5’10” pitchers or quarterbacks, but they do come up here all the time looking for 5’10” hockey players. He said, I told ya I’ve never seen ya play, but my guess is you’re probably a pretty good hockey player, too, and I advise you to quit basketball." So I went home. I thought it over. Here we’re playing hockey at 9:00 at night at the old rink. There’s nobody there, parents didn't even used to let some of their kids play hockey. In high school, it’s just like here. High school basketball and the whole school body is there, all the cheerleaders and everything. We had a principal who was a sports fanatic, and if we won games, and we did win, we won the championship a couple years in a row, the next morning after our game, he’d cancel the first period at school and we’d have an auditorium, and he had all the players up, and the school body there. So it was easy, I went back to my basketball coach and said; "No, George, I’m playing basketball." So, it’s funny because. That, if this other instance that I gotta tell you about didn’t happen, you know, I was done playing hockey. I was gonna play basketball, go to college and play football, and basketball. We had, I was gonna play for a junior B team that year in hockey, if I played hockey. I went to tell George "I was gonna play basketball", and the basketball coach wouldn’t let me play both. Well during the year one of their hockey players who was a real good baseball player too. That was the era where they had, in baseball, they had class A, B, C and D. Hamilton, my home town had a class D baseball team. Somebody had spotted this kid, I always remember too, his name was Andy Garvis. And he was a really good baseball player. Well, they came in and got him to leave the hockey team and go down to early spring training with some baseball team, I don’t know which one. So now, they got an open spot on the hockey team, but our basketball season, we won the championship again, I led the league in scoring again, and now the hockey coach, he knows that I'm done. So he comes to me, he says, "would you like to come with us." And, "sure, I would just love to come." I said. So I went with them, and they have, Ontario’s a province there, like the state here, and they have a whole bunch of junior B teams, and so we keep having play-downs till they get one champion. Well, I was real lucky that the team was doing really well. So here when I came, I played about 20 playoff games with them and we lost out in the championship round. But then, we were junior B hockey, the lower level down. Well the junior A teams, they were scouting junior B. So one of the teams that was just starting up new in Guelph Ontario, it's only about 30 miles from my home in Hamilton, they came and asked me if I’d like to go and play junior A, you know the top junior leagues in the country. At that point, you know that you maybe are gonna have a chance. So now I’m gonna play hockey, and the guy that was our, which was kinda funny, was a black guy coaching this. He was also the trainer of the Tiger Cat football team. Ricky Lewis was his name, an he was a scout for the Cleveland Barons in hockey. In those days, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about the infamous C-Form that they would sign players to. There was no draft. They’d get you to sign this C-Form which said if you ever played professional hockey, you had to play for them. And they’d give ya $100, which in those days seemed like a ton of money, and they’d give it to ya every year. So he came to me and he wanted me to sign this C-Form. I said "Hell, ya." (laughing) I didn't think there was any chance, they told me, "not only here is a $100 bucks, I would get another $100 the next year." So I signed the C-Form with Cleveland. So now the next year I went and played hockey for that Guelph team, just on the side. And an interesting thing I want to tell ya, I wanted to play one more year of high school football before I went there. So I asked them "can I just come up and practice a bit in Guelph and can I play high school football in my last year of high school there for my high school in Hamilton", and they said, first of all, "NO you can’t do that." Well, the guy who used to coach us was a guy named Bobby Bauer who is a, I don’t know if you know the history of hockey, there was a great, what they used to call the Kraut line that played for the Bruins. They were from Kitchener there. There was Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer, and Woody Dumart. The guy running the team told me "I couldn’t do that." But the coach heard about that and he said to him, "look, I like kids that are athletes, let him go and do that!" And so I played high school football, and snuck up there to Guelph once and a while. So then I went to Guelph and played hockey with them. And I had a pretty decent year, not enough where one would say " I sure am going to be able to play pro hockey," but I think I got 24 goals or something. It was funny because I didn’t score for a long time and then I had two different games where I got four goals in a game. But I wound up with a pretty good record, but nothing sensational though. I had them put in my contract when I signed it that I could get out of there after a year and go to somewhere where the college had a physical education major. Because they didn't, they were involved, or had a vet school or something. So I was gonna try to go to Toronto and play for their team there, and go to the University of Toronto. And, but Cleveland, then who owned my rights by virtue of that C-Form, they were having a training camp in Brandon, Manitoba. So they said "well come to training camp Glen anyway", I said "well I’d like to get back east and play for Toronto before I go." Well I got into Brandon, their campus there, and they thought they were going to have a good junior team, their was a lot of excitement. So finally after a long decision I decided to stay in Brandon, rather than try to go back east and go to school. I couldn't start, they didn’t have a physical education major. But I was getting a little more courage now, I think, and what happened is that, that team had a sensational year. We won the western Canadian championship and I ended up second in the league in scoring or something. So that was the first time probably, Kyle, that it occurred to me that I might be able to make a living out of this game. That’s what I wanted to do, of course. So that was a great thing for me that I was able to play there for that whole year. Then the next year, after I was done there. Cleveland owned my rights, and they had training camp there again and then they sent me to Minneapolis. This was ’49-’50, to the Millers, and one of my teammates came with me. Who was, we always look back now. We just had a reunion, well it wasn't a reunion because it was a, that team I am talking about in Brandon that did so well, they inducted all of us into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame about a month ago, or 2 months ago now. So now, talk about feeling old, if they’d have waited it one more year, that would have been 60 years ago. It was ’48-’49. You know, if they’d waited till 2008-2009 it would be 60 years. We had a, well to tell ya a funny story about the guy. The guy who was the captain of our team in Brandon was just a great guy. He seemed way more mature than all of us. He was married already, had a little child during the year I think, and he had already played a year in Scotland or something. So we thought after, He musta been cheating on his age or something because he can't, whatever. And he was owned by Cleveland, too. So we went to camp the next year. We were both done our junior now, we didn't have any more age eligibility to play junior so they had to put us somewhere, and so they sent both of us here to Minneapolis to play. I gotta tell ya a funny story Kyle, cause it is funny (laughing). He was, I never have known anyone in my life who was so determined to make money. It was far more important than hockey or anything else. So we came down here to Minneapolis and I was looking around, I didn't. He was worldly, he went out, rented an apartment and an extra room for me, put me in. Had me live with the family. Charged me, I don’t think he really worked me, but he charged me sufficient, I’m sure. I tell ya how I know. We made $3500 for the whole year. When the season was over and he was going back home to Canada, he had 22 $100 bills he’d saved. You never knew anybody who would literally not spend any money on anything, not even a paper. He used to say to me, "Glen, somebody will put a paper down after awhile." (laughing hysterically) I don't want to go too much into him, but I’m sorry I didn’t get to see him up there. He just passed away about a year or so ago. But he was a multimillionaire. He was living in, what’s the one in California, Palm Springs? It’s just a little ways away from LA, but it’s where the real rich go. But he would not spend a dime on anything. He would, in those days, I think beer was ten cents a glass and we would, guys would be sittin down on the team and throw a buck in for a couple of beers, and he would say; "ahh here is a quarter, I'm gonna have one beer." He wouldn't spend any money, but he wasn’t a freeloader. He just wouldn’t do it. So "I’m gonna have one beer; and here’s my quarter." And he sacrificed his hockey career. He was a real good player, too. But, he quickly wanted to get to play in one of those semi-pro rounds in Canada where you could make some money on the side, and get started in business. So when we went out to western Canada, and he became Freight King. Well, I gotta tell ya this one more story. (laughing) Like I say he had me in part of the rent, the Montreal Canadians bought him for $20,000 after the year was over. They didn’t have any draft in those days, so there was a rule. You were in the minor leagues and a major league team wanted you and they would pay $20,000, they got him. And he went there but he wasn’t as interested in hockey as he was the other, and they got mad at him, this story, and I knew him so I know it’s true. The big boss in Montreal, Selke called him in and he told him "he played ten games and he had one goal, but he really hadn’t done anything." And the story is that Selke said to him, "King, you must be the world’s worst hockey player." Well he looked right at Selke and said, "well, Mr. Selke, you must be the world’s worst businessman, because you just paid $20,000." (laughing) So he got thrown out of there and went to Seattle and was playing for Seattle. He got knocked down near the boards. He’s slamming in the boards. And the owner there was a crazy guy, he was right down on the bench, leaning over the boards and shouting; "get up King! Get up! Get up!" The players told me this, and knowing him I can absolutely believe it. He looked up at the owner and said, "don’t get your balls in a knot, you ball-headed old bastard." (laughing hysterically) So he didn’t care. He was aiming himself somewhere where he could get started as a businessman. So from Minneapolis then, I went to Cleveland the next year, and I played. I was really proud of that team in Brandon. We won the Western Canadian championship. We came here and we won the championship. I went to Cleveland, my first year in Cleveland won the championship there too. People sometimes ask you, "what were you most proud of." One of the things I’m most proud of is I did play the top junior hockey, and pro hockey, but I played on a lot of winners from high school on up. So anyway, they brought us up to Cleveland. I played there that year. Then, the Jim Handy I was talking about. He was always wanting to give me a chance. He liked me but I wasn’t a very good skater and that was going to hinder me getting a chance but he always was pushing me, he said "this kids a winner, get him." So anyway, he was always trying to help me. And he decided, we had an old General League coach, he was wonderful, his name was Bun Cook. He was one of the, the Cook brothers and Boucha were the greatest line, were one of the greatest lines the Rangers ever had. When I came to Minneapolis, I played for Bill Cook, but I went to Cleveland I played for Bun Cook. Then the little while I was in New York, their center man Frank Boucha, he wasn’t the coach, he was the general manager there. So I ran into that whole family. Anyway so, Handy, he decided that I should go to another team with a coach that he thought would get more out of the young players. He thought Bonham was too easy on em', he was a fine coach. I went and spent one year in St. Louis in the American League. And the next year they brought me back to Cleveland. Then we won the championship in Cleveland. I learned a lesson then, too, Kyle, is that we had very good players in Cleveland, and it made me look back on it later, too, both Minneapolis and Brandon, but not, St. Louis we had better players than anybody, but we had some guys that didn’t give a damn and nobody got along. I learned the value of having guys that got together and were good as a team, and really cared about the team and everything. It was a wonderful lesson for me, it helped me in coaching later and everything. That St. Louis team probably had more talent than anybody, but we didn’t even make the playoffs, and these other teams are winning championships. It was a real lesson for me. So then I went back to Cleveland and then Handy convinced the Rangers to give me a little bit of a chance. Everybody thought at that time that Cleveland was a farm club for the Rangers. They weren’t. But the Rangers were kinda down and out, and Handy always tried to get his players a chance, and he had that little Hergesheimer, they took him, they took Johnny Bauer the goalie, they took a lot of other guys. So he got me the opportunity to go to the Rangers in that ’53-’54 season. And you know what was funny about that, the deal they made. All he was doing was giving me a trial, and then they’d decide at the start of the next year. They don’t like to announce deals like that. It doesn’t look good for both teams. So the Rangers had Andy Bathgate, who may be the greatest Ranger that ever played. He came out of that same little town I played in, Guelph. He was only three years or so younger than I, or four and he was a great prospect. But they tried him a little bit at 19 and it wasn’t working out too well, so they wanted him to go play in the minor leagues for a while where he could really develop, which he did. So when I went for Cleveland out there and they were announcing the deal, and they announced that, ‘cause I’m going up, you know he’s going down. So what they announced is that Cleveland is getting Bathgate and $10,000. He’s in the hockey Hall of Fame and everything now. I lost that clipping I had, well shouldn’t say I lost it. The first wife of mine, when she was pissed off with me, she burned a whole bunch of my clippings. My daughter said; "dad, she’s burning all your clippings." "Ahh Shit" I said. What I really lost was a bunch of stuff from my high school days. But I said, and it's true "I deserved much worse," but anyway. So anyway, they got me to play with the little Hergesheimer guy. Wally Hergesheimer, a little player. He had two fingers off his hand, and he was about 5’8” and just a little sniper. When we played in Minneapolis together. He scored 43 goals. And that King, we were on the line together, and he scored 35; I got 17. The next year we went to Cleveland together, Hergie and I. King had gone to the Canadians, and he scored, if it was 43 with Minneapolis, 42 he scored right away in Cleveland. And I got, well one year 17, and one year 14. And then Handy, the Rangers took him and he started scoring right away with the Rangers, and kind of ironic. The guy that had a really good line, Hergesheimer, and a very good proven center in the National League named Paul Ronte. And they had a kid from my hometown named Bert Dickinson, playing in, well that was a great line. And Dickinson got hit in the eye, much like me and just about lost his eye. So they had an opening there and that’s when Handy was able to convince the Rangers to give me a little chance. So I went, and I played till the end of the year, the rest of the year. I didn’t always play, but, and I did all right, nothing great. I got a couple goals. They turned out to be winning goals. So that was good. So now, after we just got nicely started, Hergesheimer broke his leg, so, it made it, it sounds like I am making alibis and I am not, but it did make it difficult, ‘cause I was there for a specific reason. I could look after Hergesheimer. So they kept me there till the end of the year, and I started the next year with them, and in, I thought that Hergesheimer was coming back, but the league was not ready yet. So after about a couple months into the next year, they sent me back to Cleveland. So I went back to Cleveland in about November of ’54, and it was February of ’55, like two and a half months later or something like that, I got hit. I was back, I had played about 30 games or so with them, maybe a few more than that. Do you got the stats there with ya?
Q. Yeah, I do.
A. That’s when I went to St. Louis that year. I got 24. See that’s the year they took me up. I played 31 games. Then I just played 15 games when I started the next year, ’54-’55, I started with the Rangers and they just left me there for 13 games. They sent me back there. I was starting to score some goals again with them. So I was hoping, I was getting a little nasty. We didn’t have a whole lot of penalty minutes, but I was, so I was back in Cleveland and it was in February, I know the date so clearly. My daughter was born on the 19th of February and it happened on the 23rd, 1955. They say 27th and it was the 23rd. They got that mixed up. ‘Cause it was four days after Kathy was born. So, and then as I say, my great fortune of having John Mariucci to then you know. I had a chance to do that so I went back, the next year I just kinda took it a little easy, and I went back there for that year, and I helped coach the varsity team, because John had gone to Cortina with the Olympics that year. And Marsh Ryman who was a ticket guy then, he eventually became athletic director there. Good little guy. I could tell you a couple stories (laughing) about being there with that team. Marsh, he was a fiery little guy and when we would go on the road to play. He would get in a brawl with somebody, their athletic director, or their coach or something, and he’d always wind up telling them, "you need us a helluva lot more than we need you, and we’re never coming back." So the players are looking. So he did that in about four places. So the players are coming to me and saying; "Glen what the hell are we gonna do, we won’t have any road games next year? "Marsh told all these guys that they need us a helluva lot more than we need you, and we’re never coming back." I said to them, "don’t worry, Mariucci will be back. He’ll smooth all this stuff over." I gotta tell ya a funny story that happened then, too. Players, you know how they, they started calling Marsh, Marsh Ryman, they were calling him "Ruhtracm, hey Ruhtracm" they would say. He says to me," Glen, what the hell do you think they mean by Ruhtracm." I said, "I don’t know, Marsh, I’ll try to find out." So then I think I asked Jack McCarten, who was the goalie of that team. I said "Jack, how come the guys calls Marsh Ruhtracm." He said, "well, you know, with Marsh, he says were never coming back, everywhere where we've gone he told them we’re never coming back." He said, well McArthur, remember McArthur said "I shall return," he said, "so McArthur spelled backward is Ruhtracm." (laughing) So Marsh said, "did ya found out why they call me Ruhtracm." I didn’t have the heart to tell him. It was about 20 years later I told him, "by the way, you know why they called you Ruhtracm." I started to laugh. So and then they said, "what are we gonna do?," "don’t worry," I said when John came back, he got everything straightened out. Marsh was a little pistol. I will tell ya a couple of Mariucci stories though. We would go to. John hated to fly, so his arrangements when they played in Michigan usually, and in those days Michigan and Michigan State were both in their conference, and they would come back on a train through Chicago on Sunday, and then John would just march them into the Chicago Stadium and they’d all be following John. One of the players, I wasn’t there with him was John Hill, because that year I was doing that John was in Europe at the Cortina games. The other players told me that the one time they were going through there and the cabbie got all excited. Maroosh was strutting around and he had all his players coming behind him, and the cabbie said to the other guy, "look, look!" he says, "that’s John Mariucci, he used to fight for the Hawks!" He didn’t even say play! (laughing hysterically) John would tell me stories about looking after, when he was in Chicago, they had what they called a "pony line," and it was two Bentleys, Max Bentley and Doug Bentley, who each have won scoring titles and were great players, and Bill Mosienko, a little guy too. But imagine having this as your claim to fame. He scored in one NHL game, he scored three goals in 21 seconds. But anyway, Mariucci used to tell me how he looked after those guys. And I could believe it. If anybody had to deal with Maroosh, and I could imagine how that was, but I really found out when I was in New York together with the two Bentleys there for awhile, Max and I became pretty good friends. And I said, "Max," Max never talked much, but I’d say "Max, tell me what it was like to play with that big Dago or Mariucci. He said, "Glen, I can’t tell you how he made hockey fun and life worthwhile for us, and they were just kicking the crap out of us" and he said, "once John came, and went once around the league so everybody saw, and saw what he’d do, they left us alone." "I mean they could still take us out or hit but if there was any hit that it might be an attempt at intimidation, he said they had to have a lot of guts, because they had to turn around and get ready for Mariucci, because here he came!" And in those days, they didn’t give ya penalities for coming off of the bench. There was a famed fight with Maroosh and Black Jack Stewart you may have read about. I have to tell ya too, they said "they had to have a lot of balls if they were gonna because here was John coming" and they said, "there was never any doubt why he was coming because he left the stink in his gloves on the bench, and just kicked the shit out of em" He said, "and they left us alone, He said, except Black Jack Stewart." "Once in a while, he said, if he got bored or something, he’d slap us around a bit and get ready for Big John." They got pictures of it. John used to have one up in his living room. They called it "the bloodiest, and the best fight they’ve ever seen in the National League." There was blood coming down. And they battled out on the ice, in the penalty box. People don’t realize, but I was in involved in these a couple times. You sat in the same penalty bench and the other guy had a cop in between. So they started that in the penalty box again, rolled back out on the ice, down the corridor, they threw them out of the game, then back in the corridor. John was very tough. Yeah John was, very special.
Q. You maybe answered this as well, but as a youngster, which hockey player or person did you look up to as a role model? You said your coach and then Rocket Richard.
A. Yes Rocket Richard, I just loved the Rocket, he was so explosive and sensational. So I was a great Rocket Richard fan. And of course I was in Toronto. I lived in Toronto for a little while. I think we consider our hometown where we go to high school, for me that was Hamilton which is 40 miles from Toronto. We call it "Canada’s Pittsburgh", it’s a steel town. That’s where I went to high school. In those days, there were a couple of leagues, there was, ‘cause we were all Leafs fans. We would go to the Leaf games. There was a Syl Apps who was a really smooth player, and a wonderful athlete. He was a pole vaulter in the Olympics, that was really something. And then there was a Teeder Kennedy that played that was so, that tried so hard. He wasn’t the greatest player in the world, but you never saw anybody work harder. And they had a great fan base at the Gardens, they used to hear em holler, "Come on, Teeder." You could hear it. So I think I kind of adopted those two as my, but as I got closer to the age, myself Rocket Richard as I said for the longest time, I defended saying; Rocket was the greatest player, he won't even admit Gordie Howe was better than he was when it became obviously that he was.
Q. You talked a little bit about this too already, that your first Minnesota exposure came in ’49-'50 with the Minneapolis Millers. Can you tell me a little about your time there, and what was it like playing alongside John Mariucci?
A. He was just a wonderful educator. He just took the team all over. We had a whole bunch of Canadians and John, and then you know John’s personality, these guys just adored him, they loved him. But he was ridiculing us all the time (laughing). When John was talking, he’d throw in a few big words, and these guys, like I said, all these guys were Canadian and none of them had ever finished high school. I was always a little shit disturber and I think that’s what he liked about me. I'd say "ah John, quit throwing around those sixty cent words, I went to school too." And then John would say, "Oh, all right, I will endeavor to lower myself to your intellectual level, Canadian hockey players and cabdrivers, you’re about on the same level." (laughing) John would take over, we traveled by the bus sometimes, and by the train as well, that was great. We’d all go back in the smoker train, or whatever you call it there, and John would hold court in there. John was our leader of that team. And here’s what happened. In the playoffs we finished second in the league and we had to beat the St. Paul Saints in the first round and they were fourth and we beat them, and now we’re gonna have to play Omaha, which was the Detroit’s farm team. They had that great big rink in Omaha. Detroit by design always put their minor league teams in that great big rink, because they believed skating, and they’re right, skating is singularly the most important skill in hockey. So this is a huge rink. And they had not lost a game in there since before Christmas. So now we gotta play them in the finals, and it was a 3 out of 5 series. We played in the first two games in Omaha, ‘cause they finished higher than us. The next two were in Minneapolis, and a fifth one if necessary would be back to Omaha. So John, what happened was, and we had that little barn of a rink here as opposed to Omaha. Omaha didn’t like playing in here at all. It was very cramped, and so John, what happened was we were getting in the plane and, like I said, we were paid all our salary, we don’t get any more money, we just get it depending on how far you go in the playoffs. We eventually got $500 bucks each for winning the championship. Seemed like a lot of money at that time. But anyway, the coach, Bill Cook, who was just a great, great player in the National League, and a great guy. It seemed strange to me, just a kid of course at 20 years old, the coach says to us, "All right guys, this is really your money now so I want to hear all your opinions on how you’d like to play these guys." Well, they start we could do this or do that and I’m sitting there listening and I know when they get to Maroosh, John is gonna tell us how we’re gonna play. And all our guys are gonna just do what Maroosh says any way. So I’m just listening till they get to Maroosh, and when they get to John, John says, I’ll never forget. He said, "you know, I probably shouldn’t even say this, but I’m gonna say it anyway." This is a meeting at the meal on the day of the game, you know so we’re gonna play them in about five hours or something, and John says; "I probably shouldn’t say this, but we’re probably not gonna win tonight in here anyway." he said, "Nobody has ever won in here since before Christmas, before Christmas." So he said, "suppose for a minute we just concede that we’re gonna lose in here tonight," he said. "Then we can go out and we don’t care how many penalties we take or anything else because we’re gonna lose anyway. We’ll just kick the shit out of em' (laughing) and then, we'll make enough of an impression and we’ll beat them in here tomorrow night. Then we know when we go back to Minneapolis we can beat them twice in our little barn back there." And that’s exactly what happened. We went out there, we lost, I think it was, I’m gonna have to look it up somewhere, but it was 7-1 or 8-1, you never saw the guys go out and celebrate after the game because mostly John was hitting them, but a lot of us where trying with some fights and everything. We just went after them and every time they turned around, we were flying at them. The puck was very secondary. They beat us very one-sidedly, but sure enough we went back to Minneapolis and won both games there and eliminated them three straight. So we won that championship. Then the guy moved the team, Lyle Wright. He ran that rink for the Ice Capades that were in there.
Q. At the old Minneapolis rink correct?
A. Yeah. Frank King, the soon-to-be millionaire, where he picked out an apartment for us to live in, it was right near there, we didn’t need a car or ahh.
Q. Just walk to the rink.
A. Yeah we did, It was great with Frank, (laughing) well anyway. I had a lesson on how to save money. Unfortunately it didn’t take with me.
Q. Who were some of your favorite teammates out of all your years playing?
A. I’m glad you asked me that. I just met with one of them who I’ve known 59 or 60 years. His name was Reg Abbott. He was a little guy. Bright, bright guy. That was a funny thing, Kyle, that happened with me. That year in Guelph that I mentioned, that little junior team that was just starting up, and they put all of us in one big boarding house. Some couple where they were gonna make money, they had all 20 of us, well it wasn't 20 I think we only had 17 on that team. But we all, on that team you know, nobody was from that little town as well. I was, I lived as close as anybody, 28 miles away or something my family. But the reason I tell you that is we all, they’re a ways from home. They’d all promise their mothers we’d go to school, well. Once we got going, by Christmas time, Kyle, I think to the best of my recollection, there was only two guys still going to school, the spare goalie and me. I was still going to school, I was still taking some grade 13 ‘cause that would transfer to college eventually. So anyway, but the next year we came to Brandon, and when I looked at it when we were up there again. Cause some of them are my favorite people, we had, from that team in Brandon, what a change. One guy was a doctor, three of them are lawyers I think, a couple more got into physical education, and one more of my linemates became a principal. I had two linemates that were from Brandon, brilliant players. The one I think was the best player from Guelph, he became a lawyer but he had a heart ailment and he died tragically at 27 or something, so he never. But the other one had become a principal of a school, he's been a physical education teacher, we had all those kind of guys, and so when we all went back to this reunion and this guy, I’m gonna tell you about him, he’s one of my favorite guys of all time playing with, Reg Abbott, and he was a little, kinda quiet guy, good hockey player. He got picked up by the Montreal Canadians and played one year in their farm system but he was probably too small and not strong, but smart and good enough. And he got involved after in, with one of the big insurance companies in all of Canada, Great Life or something up there. And he rose over his career to be about third in the whole country. But he was the greatest little guy. He wouldn’t swear. We had, we were a raucous bunch of guys, we’d sing dirty songs all the way down on the bus. But, and he wouldn’t you know, we’d all sneak off and have a beer even though we weren’t suppose to and some of them smoked; I didn’t do that. He wouldn’t have anything. I think he was into Christian Science too. I think we had to be worried about if he got cut and something, they didn't want to have doctors working on him, but anyway. He eventually became, and he didn’t bother the girls or anything at all. And later in life, I ran into him, and he wound up and married one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. I said; "Reggie, you little shit." But we were very special friends. I’ve kept in touch with him a little bit. When I was scouting for the North Stars full time he settled in Victoria British Columbia. He retired at 55, living in Victoria. Now he’s 77 or something so he's had a wonderful, but he was just one of the real, real, genuinely nice guys. When I talk about players I got know more when I was coaching, my favorite player of all time is Mike Antonovich, he's a little guy from Greenway, and that's perhaps, because when I came in here, Bruce Telander, I don't know if you know Bruce he's a big booster for Gopher hockey and they were alumni guys. John used to turn a lot of the recruiting over to him, after he got Louie, there for awhile Louie was doing it. But they contacted me, Bruce and Louie, and they wanted some help in scouting a kid way up in Canada. Turned out to be Kenny Dryden, they wanted me to scout. Anyway, I was gonna say, when I came here in ’66 to coach the team and Telander and these guys they had a summer league going on and things weren’t going great with the team now but they were telling me, "don’t worry, Glen we have" Telander was just telling me the other day again that he’d been very involved in bantam hockey and he'd seen Antonovich playing for the bantam championship in the state a couple years in a row. And he was, I’m not trying to make a good story. He was about 5’6”. He had big glasses on. He was always standing short and his breezers came down to his
skates. He weighed about 125 pounds when he was a sophomore at Greenway, he played for Coleraine. They were telling me, they said, "we’re a little low on talent, but don’t worry, Glen", they said, "our savior is coming." This little guy from Greenway. I saw him when he first came. I said, "Wait a minute, you’re telling me that's our salvation, our savior!" Then I saw him play and he’s just a great kid. He didn’t like school much. He was a smart guy, but he didn’t like school, and the way things worked out, the year I left he had gotten hurt a little bit. Ken Yackel was coaching the team for the rest of that year. I left in November because when I got hired it was November of ’71 and we had to start playing October of ’72, so I just had 11 months. And I couldn’t stay and coach the Gophers if I had to run all over the country finding players. So, but anyway, Antonovich. Well between he and, we had a great Canadian goalkeeper named Murray McLachlan. Between Antonovich and McLachlan. Well Blais came the same way as them. You know who else we nearly got, well we got that year, well then he got some girl pregnant or something and he had to go up to Winnipeg and play to make some money, was Henry Boucha. We had Antonovich, and Blais, and Boucha in that one year’s recruiting. We were on our way to ah. And John had made it clear that he wanted us to concentrate on Minnesota kids. But I didn’t have any problem doing that because we were, there was such a good crop coming along. And at that point we took McLachlan. When I was unable to recruit Dryden, I say I was unable because he’d already committed to Cornell, was he something. But McLachlan came right after him. What was funny, not funny, tragic for me was the year they tried to get me to recruit Dryden, I did my best but I couldn't he was already committed.
Q. That would have been something to have Dryden playing for the Gophers
A. Yeah, yeah. And he went to Cornell. That year, my first year of coaching here was the last year that freshman were ineligible. And so, I tried, but they tried to get me to recruit him a year earlier. If I had been successful with him, he would have been our goalkeeper that first year I came and we had a good team. We had Gambucci's, and Paradise's, Klatt, and we had a whole lot of good players. And we had nobody in goal, that’s the years that I ah, the years that I tried for a while changing the goalie every time they scored, which was a disaster. (laughing) A last resort I would say. But anyway, when we didn’t get Dryden, then the next year we got Murray McLachlan. But he, if Dryden was a year earlier, he would have been eligible for me to play. That first year we had a really good team and we finished dead last because we didn’t have a goalkeeper. So I had two things tormenting me. One that I hadn’t successfully recruited Dryden, and two, McLachlan was sitting on our freshman team and practicing with us everyday. When he came, he won our most valuable player all three years that he was here. He won the most valuable player in the WCHA two years in a row. He was a phenomenal goalkeeper. He's a favorite of mine all time too. Antonovich was also. An awful lot of really good guys.
Q. Antonovich went on to play for you with the Fighting Saints too.
A. Yes, with the Saints he was always a favorite of mine. With the North Stars, the guys that were really my favorites were Bobby Smith, and Curt Giles, I just ran into him the other day there, classy, classy guys, well let me think for just a minute....
Q. Of all the players that played under you that are now considered historical Minnesota hockey players...
A. Al MacAdam was a great guy...
Q. Neal Broten came during your time
A. Yeah, Neal Broten, yeah. I hadn’t realized just how spectacularly he arrived on the scene. His first full season he got 98 points. Amazing!
Q. With Neal, his first games came after the Gophers season finished correct?
A. He came at the end of the year, of the year that we went to the Stanley Cup finals and he only played two games at the end of the year and then he played through the playoffs, and he did all right but nothing that extraordinary. But the next year, in ’81-’82, he got 98 his first full season. You see, we had done sensibly with him. We got him at first, and we let him go play in the Olympics and then we even let him go back to play another year with the Gophers. Where as when we got poor Lawton, we jammed him right in there. Not only did we jam him in there right out of high school, but I think the biggest mistake we made was we gave him #98, which sat just a little bit below Gretzky. ‘Cause he was a pretty good player, but he couldn't live up to the, well he wasn’t gonna be a Broten. I’m trying to think of some of the other guys. Gilles Meloche was a great classy guy, and was our goalkeeper and ah. You know who was a favorite of mine, and we didn’t have him that long was a captain for us when I was coaching named Paul Shmyr. He had been in the WHA, and he came over to the Stars, and he was a funny guy. You know what he did, Kyle, and really good captains could help their coach out with this, he took away a lot of the petty little things you have to deal with like fines for stepping on the ice 5 minutes too late, and you gotta do something about it. But it’s much better if they police themselves. And if you get a captain like him he did a, and that was fun and they would fine each other, and he would, he held court cases with them so they could plead their case, and then they’d keep that money for a party at the end of the year, but it takes care of a whole lot. The way he used to do it was, he put his heart and soul into it. He called himself; "Judge Roy Bean" and then he went and got a robe and a gray wig and he conducted trials with the players, and the players would all sit and listen and they were the jury. They’d listen to the guy’s plea and then they’d either get a thumbs up or thumbs down. They always gave thumbs down, I don't care what. (laughing) But he was so much fun doing it and everybody, it was great. So what he did once though, he put the coaches on trial because we had screwed up a practice thing in Vancouver. We were out there on a trip and it really got mixed up, we went to the wrong rink and every other damn thing. So he put us on trial. Murray Oliver was my assistant, and J.P. was too, but my memory is we only had Murray and I up in front of em' because he was funny, too. The first thing he said was, "which one of you is gonna do the talking?" And Murray Oliver said, "are you kidding?" But anyway. We had screwed up but we thought up a real good defense because it just happened that we were on a bit of a losing streak then, although that was a very good year for us that year, but we were on a bit of a losing streak, and we hadn’t won in three or four games and we were on the road up there. What we really wanted to do was give them a day off, but you don’t like to give them a day off when they’d screwed up, they’d played poorly the night before. So, we hadn’t done this, really we had screwed up, but it seemed like a good chance to make a decent case. So our plea was that we really didn’t screw up at all; we did this on purpose because you guys needed a day like that. By the time we got around to the trial, it had been vindicated because after that we had won three or four in a row after that. So having your day off was good for em'. Believe me, sometimes, Kyle, it’s just good to not have to go to the rink, put all that shit on, it gets old with the year. So giving them a day off was the best idea, but we didn’t feel that we could do it with the loss again. We can’t reward them for that. So I made that case. I said, "we knew that you guys needed a day off more than anything else but we couldn’t give it to you, because, you know, you’d been playing so poorly. So we came up with this idea and we told the rink guy to get all screwed up. We really weren’t screwed up at all. This way we were able to give you the day off, and look at the evidence here; now we’ve won three in a row," or some damn thing. So Shmyr, he said "well pretty decent case." Then he turned to the players; "up or down?" Well they are all down, so he fined me $25 bucks or so. I remember I made the check out to: Judge Roy Bean, for $25 bucks.(laughing) I said "try to cash that!" But he was a great guy. He was a lot of fun. There’s been an awful lot of good guys. Craig Hartsburg has a special place for me. He was the son of a buddy of mine that we had played on a midget baseball champion of Ontario and we played on a junior B hockey team together, his Dad, so we were buddies. So when we wind up with Craig I had a special, and boy he was... Of all of the bad breaks the North Stars got in some of that was when Herbie was coming in to coach. We had so many injuries, Hartsburg was one of em', he played about eight years but several of those he was not quite 100%. Had he been able to play his whole career he would have been like Bourque, and Orr and some of them, he was a very elite player. Boy was he good.
Q. Lots of injuries the North Stars had during that time. Who was the best coach you played for?
A. Best coach I ever met in my life was Dick Siebert, the baseball coach. I just want to get this in. It was my great fortune when I came here to coach the Gophers in ’66, I was 37 years old. And what had happened, really when I think about this, it was a tragedy for me to lose the eye but it got me in coaching ten years earlier than I would have. By the time those ten years were up I’d established myself as a successful coach where I had been and I got the job here. But when I came, you know they have those big luxury offices and everything now, you know Cook Hall, right at the end where the stadium was, that’s where all of our offices were. And when they hired me, I came in, they put me in an office with Dick Siebert, and Les Bolson and what a wonderful break for me. Dick Siebert was the best coach of anything I’ve ever known in my life. He was just an absolute genius. And mostly was a delightful little guy. But playing myself, I would say probably the best coach I ever had was the guy in Cleveland named Bun Cook. He was a gentleman and kinda quiet, but very, very bright and had a great rapport with his players. There’s something about him that you just, of course he’d been a great player, but he was smart about what he was doing, and he treated people with respect and yet he was... One thing that happened that really impressed me was we had a great goalie named Johnny Bower in Cleveland who later, this is a wonderful story. He never got into the National Hockey League till he was about 33 years old when his career should have been over. You gotta remember in those days when we were playing, imagine this. Only one goalie, you didn’t even have a backup goalie dressed for the game, no mask. But this guy was a sensational goalie in the American League, but there were only six NHL teams and you couldn’t, you know, it was very hard to get a chance. And I think he was getting discouraged because he was leading the American League in goal. Nobody would every give him a chance. But as a result of that, I’m sure he was very aware of the statistics and everything. One time we were playing a game, I think it was in Buffalo in the American League, and we were winning about 5-1 late in the game, and we were relaxing a little bit, just let them go at us, and they whacked in two or three goals, might have been three but I think only two. Bang, bang at the end of the game. And Johnny Bauer, who was a great guy, he came in the dressing room and was pissed off because he was always aware of his goals against, so now it should be one goal and his goals against will be 2.2 or something. And now all of a sudden it was three goals, and so he came and he starting throwing his equipment around and everything. So I watched Bun handle that. First of all he gave us Shit. I remember him telling us, he said, "you guys are aware of your statistics, you want to have another point or another, I hear you, I watch you go around and try lobby for another..." He said, "now here’s this guy whose giving everything every night, and you don't give a shit about his!" "Ah what the hell we still won, what the hell are you upset about we still won!" we said, but he still gave us a lecture about that. Then he called him aside and told him; "not to do that any more." And I remember Johnny, Johnny was was a good guy. He told me that Bud told him then; "that in goalkeeping, you always remember, you better be the player’s best friend." But he was just, he had a real good way with everybody, a good rapport.
Q. In your opinion, what were some of the best hockey and coaching highlights of your career?
A. Well, like I said, I didn’t really till I think back, I am really proud of my playing career was when I got the end of junior and into the pros, we were winning all the time. It makes you feel good ‘cause you were part of it, you know so that was probably the highlight. It helps me, I would like to think, and I do, that having an offer I would have been given the chance to play. I've had people tell me that and I appreciate it. So the fact that I was part of winning teams is the biggest part for me. I mean I didn’t lead the league in scoring, but I made a contribution. Bill Cook, that coached us here, I kept the clipping where I separated my shoulder that year and I was out for about 14 games or so. And the game I come back, I kept the clipping for that, he said he "only intended to use me a little bit" but I ended up scoring the tying goal and set up the winning goal. But what he said, he said, and this was my first year, I was 20 years old. But the phrase he used, he said, "this kid’s a winner." He said, "I was only gonna put him in fo