We were finishing up a team meeting following my senior year at Mankato State in 1981, when I was informed that I had been selected as a Top 10 finalist for a new award honoring the best player in men’s college hockey.
It was called the Hobey Baker Award, named in honor of a standout athlete from Princeton University. While I had decent credentials during my career with the Mavericks, I still had a hard time believing that the selection committee would consider me, a NCAA Division II goalie, as one of the ten best players in all of men’s college hockey. It was an unexpected and humbling honor.
When you look at the list of finalists, it was clear from the beginning who would be winning the award. And no one couldn’t argue with the choice. Neal Broten was named the winner of the first annual Hobey Baker Award. He was a star at the University of Minnesota who already had an Olympic gold medal and a NCAA championship on his impressive hockey resume.
I was invited to attend the banquet which was held at the old Decathalon Club in Bloomington. The guest speaker was Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.
At the banquet, I got to meet Neal Broten. I had played against him in high school when my Edina-East team defeated Roseau in the quarterfinals of the state hockey tournament. We talked about that game for a bit, but not for very long.
It was huge thrill for me to meet Neal, who of course continued on to have a magnificent NHL career.
Being named a Top 10 finalist for the first-ever Hobey Baker Award means more with each passing year. It is something that I will always remember!
By the way, did you know that 1980 Olympian and Richfield, Minn., native Steve Christoff served as the model for the the Hobey Baker Trophy?
Top 10 finalists for first Hobey Baker Award
Pos. — Name — School — Hometown
LW – Sandy Beadle, Northeastern University, Regina Saskatchewan
C – Steve Bozek, Northern Michigan University, Castlegar, British Columbia
C – Neal Broten, University of Minnesota, Roseau, Minn.
G – Steve Carroll, Mankato State University, Edina, Minn.
C – Mark Hentges, St. Thomas University, New Hope, Minn.
C – Tom Lawler, Merrimack College, Andover Massachusetts
G – Bill Provencher, Bowdoin College, Lewiston, Maine
D – Ed Small, Clarkson College, Ottawa, Ontario
G – Rick Strack, Plattsburgh State University, Lake Placid, New York
LW – Steve Ulseth, University of Minnesota, Roseville, Minn.