Gophers shine in light of longtime equipment manager’s passing

by Nick Heronimus

As the Minnesota women’s hockey team celebrated its 10-year anniversary last weekend, they also mourned the loss of a beloved member of its program.

Bonnie Olein passed away last Tuesday after a two-year battle with colon cancer. She was the Gophers’ equipment manager from the inception of the program and was extremely close with many of the people that came and went through the program during her 10 years of service.

Even though she has passed away her memory will not be soon forgotten by the Minnesota women’s hockey program.

At Friday night’s game, Minnesota had a ceremony honoring Olein and her family.

The ceremony announced the official name change of the Gophers’ Unsung Hero Award to the Bonnie Olein Unsung Hero Award. The ceremony also announced the name change of the Ridder equipment room to the Bonnie Olein equipment room.

“It was so fitting, she just had this heart about her and this thing about her,” senior captain Whitney Graft said. “Those awards were a great idea to be named after her.”

Senior co-captain Bobbi Ross shared similar thoughts.

“She was always our unsung hero,” Ross said. “She did so much for us and always stayed in the background and wanted it to be about us.”

The Gophers acknowledged that it was a difficult week dealing with the loss of Olein, but it brought the team together over the weekend.

“We rallied around it and got it done tonight (Friday) for her,” Graft said.

Practices had not been at a normal level since Olein’s passing as the team’s thoughts were largely on the loss of their former manager, head coach Brad Frost said. But playing Minnesota-Duluth seemed to help Minnesota focus once the puck hit the ice.

“This was always Bonnie’s favorite series,” Ross said. “I think everybody remembered that and it seemed like we had a little something extra (Friday).”

Minnesota will also, for the remainder of the 2007-08 season, wear colon cancer awareness ribbons on their helmets.

Along with the ceremony, a number of activities were held over the weekend in Olein’s honor.

The student-athlete advisory council sold cancer bracelets, held a raffle drawing for an autographed women’s hockey jersey, provided face-painting and had autographed posters. All donations will be given in Olein’s name for cancer research.

Olein’s efforts weren’t limited to the women’s hockey program, as she was a 30-year employee of the University.

Olein served as the manager for various sports including the men’s and women’s tennis teams, women’s basketball, softball and volleyball.

She also graduated from the University in 1974 and during her time at the University was a softball student-athlete herself.

The successful weekend did not come as a surprise to Frost, considering the emotions surrounding Olein’s passing.

“She was a fighter,” Frost said. “She battled that disease for two-and-a-half years and in turn gave our kids a lot of strength.”