Warroad to retire jersey numbers of Olympic gold medalists Bill, Dave Christian

Dave Christian displays his 1980 Olympic hockey gold medal. Dave Wallis / The Rink Live

By Jess Myers

WARROAD, Minn. — Photos of Bill Christian and his son, Dave, have hung in the lobby of Warroad’s hockey arenas since 1980, when Dave came home from Lake Placid, N.Y., with an Olympic gold medal to match the one his father won in 1960 in Squaw Valley, Calif.

Starting in June, Bill and Dave’s jersey numbers will hang permanently inside The Gardens in Warroad, recognizing not only their on-ice success but their long-standing service to hockey in their hometowns as well.

During a ceremony to be held at the arena in conjunction with Warroad’s Celebrity Golf Tournament on June 29, Bill’s No. 3 and Dave’s No. 10 will be officially retired.

“Most people know about the legendary things Bill and Dave did on the ice, but all that they have given back to our community since they hung up the skates are just as important in earning this honor,” said David Marvin, Warroad High School’s girls hockey coach and one of the primary organizers of the golf weekend. “Bill volunteered countless time to coach a generation of Warroad youth hockey players, including me. And both during his long NHL career and since retirement, Dave has always been there promoting Hockeytown USA.”

Bill Christian was a goal-scoring forward on the 1960 US Olympic team that won the gold medal in Squaw Vallley, Calif. Courtesy of USA Hockey

Bill and his late brother Roger were members of the first American team to win Olympic gold in 1960. Bill, who graduated from Warroad in 1956 and skated for the Minnesota Gophers for one season, also played for the Warroad Lakers senior hockey team for 23 years and coached Warroad’s bantam team to multiple state tournaments in the 1970s and ’80s, all while running the Christian Brothers hockey sticks factory with Roger. Now 81, Bill is retired and living in Florida. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.

Dave matched his father’s Olympic success in 1980, then played more than 1,000 games in the NHL for the Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Now 60, Dave retired from pro hockey in 1996 and lives in the Twin Cities. He joined Bill in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.

“It feels fantastic. Warroad will always be my home, and it’s a reminder of that,” Dave Christian said, shortly after learning of the honor. “It’s also a reminder of the tremendous community support that I’ve received throughout my playing career, and that I still feel today from everybody in Warroad.”

Father and son played together for the Lakers after Dave finished high school in 1977 and again after Dave’s sophomore season at North Dakota where he contributed to the WCHA title won in 1979. A year later, Bill and Dave played against each other once when the Lakers hosted the 1980 Olympic team in Warroad for a game won 10-0 by the Olympians, a few weeks before they pulled off the Miracle on Ice. Dave’s nephew and Bill’s grandson, Brock Nelson, plays for the NHL’s New York Islanders.

The Christians’ jerseys will join Warroad’s No. 5 girls’ jersey, which has been retired for Ms. Hockey winner and Olympic gold medalist Gigi Marvin. And boys jersey No. 16 has not been worn by a Warroad Warrior since Olympic silver medalist and NHLer Henry Boucha had his jersey cut off of him at a Twin Cities hospital when he was injured in the 1969 state high school championship game versus Edina. Although exceptions have been made for a few of Boucha’s grandchildren, who have donned 16 in youth hockey with grandpa’s blessing.

Jess Myers (@JessRMyers) can be reached at jrmyers@forumcomm.com.
Dave Christian was the 1980 Olympic Team’s assists leader in their run to the Miracle on Ice and played for Team USA again in the 1984 Canada Cup. Courtesy of USA Hockey
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