U hockey program will retire John Mayasich’s

Tim Nichols

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.”