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Elwyn “Doc” Romnes Era: 1947-1948 through 1951-1952


Elwyn “Doc” Romnes, a native of White Bear Lake and former Chicago Blackhawk star, followed Armstrong as Minnesota coach for the 1947-1948 season.  His best season was that of 1950-1951 when the Gophers compiled a 14-12 record.  The team's senior line of Bjorkman-Watters-Engelstad led the offense, while Jim Sedin, Frank Larson and Tom Wegleitner were the team's leading defenseman.  The team lost several close early-season encounters, but managed to win their last nine games, barely missing an NCAA bid.

The Gophers posted a 13-13 record during Romnes’ last season of 1951-1952.  The Duluth line of Bodin-Strom-Nyhus led the Minnesota team to a fifth place finish in the newly formed Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL).

During Romnes’ tenure the newly remodeled Williams Arena was opened for play February 17, 1950 when the Gophers swamped Michigan State 12-1 before a crowd of 3,437 fans.  This was the first time that the Gophers had their own arena for practice and games.  No more would they have to bear the inconvenience of using the arena in south Minneapolis or the Hippodrome in St. Paul.  Thus ended the necessity of the players taking taxis from the campus to these facilities for team practice.  In 1985 Williams Arena was renamed Mariucci Arena in honor of the former Gopher player and coach, John Mariucci.  Gordy Watters in 1951 and Duluth's Larry Ross in 1952 were accorded All-American honors.  Rube Bjorkman, Ken Yackel and Jim Sedin were members of the Silver Medal winning 1952 U.S. Olympic team. Bjorkman, from Roseau, coached high school hockey at Greenway and then advance to college coaching at RPI, New Hampshire and North Dakota.

The University of Minnesota Athletic Department and Athletic Director Ike Armstrong were not satisfied with Romnes’ five-year record of 53 wins and 59 losses and replaced him with former Gopher football and hockey star John Mariucci for the 1952-1953 season.  The general feeling among the Minnesota hockey followers was that with the large and talented pool of hockey material in the state a more successful program should be forthcoming.

Among the teams met for the first time during this period were Denver, Rochester Mustangs, Brandon Wheat Kings and the Olympic Club of San Francisco.  Starting the season on 1951-1952 seven Midwest colleges formed in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL).  Charter members were Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Michigan, North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver and Minnesota.  For the season of 1953-1954 the name of the league was changed to the Western Intercollegiate Hockey League (WIHL).  Later the name of the league was changed to the present Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

By the early 1950s hockey in the state was growing at a fast rate with large youth programs in St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth, and increased interest in the newly developing Twin City suburban communities and other are smaller cities in out-state Minnesota. This growth, combined with winning Gopher teams during this era, resulted in record crowds at Williams Arena.  For the season of 1953-1954 Minnesota led the nation in college attendance by attracting 103,000 fans for 18 home games.  Season figures for other WIHL teams were as follows: Michigan State- 10,000, Michigan- 39,000, Michigan Tech-14,000 and North Dakota-54,000.  Total league attendance for the following season of 1954-1955 climbed to 312,304.

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