BEMIDJI -- R.H. (Bob) Peters was an assistant men’s hockey coach at the University of North Dakota the fall of 1963, and the team was preparing for a two-game series in Grand Forks when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The nation was mourning, and the sports world came to a halt. Those non-conference home games were canceled.
Peters went on to become a head coach for 36 seasons, two at UND and 34 at Bemidji State. His teams won 744 games, and his Beavers claimed 13 national championships.
Peters, 83, retired in 2001, but has remained an avid hockey fan, missing only a handful of Beaver games and following the game at all levels.
That all came to a screeching halt in March when the coronavirus pandemic began.
“There’s been nothing to watch,” he said. “I haven’t been in the rink even to walk around or go to practice.”
He said and his wife, Mary Lou, have been isolated in their Bemidji home, and both are feeling well. He’s looking forward to following the Beaver teams from home as they begin the new season.
“We’ll be following as always,” Peters said. “We were pretty well tuned in to Beaver games. Although I will admit I had to slow up a bit because when they had the doubleheaders, men and women Friday, men and women Saturday. That was getting to be too much for me, sitting in the rink for that many hours. So in the last year or so we just decided to pick one game. We didn’t miss very many games at all.”
Known as an historian of the game, Peters recalled the year 1919 when the Spanish flu cut short the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The final series was cancelled after five games. It was the only time in the history of the Stanley Cup that it was not awarded due to a no-decision. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association champion Seattle Metropolitans hosted the series in Seattle against the NHL champion Montreal Canadiens. Both teams had won two games, lost two, and tied one before the deciding game was canceled. Most of the Montreal players and their manager George Kennedy fell ill with the flu and were hospitalized, leaving only three healthy players. The flu claimed the life of Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall four days later. Kennedy was permanently weakened by his illness, and it led to his death a few years later.