BLAINE, Minn. — Although he has lived in the United States for better than two decades, Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost told The Rink Live over the summer that his inner Canadian still comes out during men’s competitions at the Olympics and the World Junior Championships. Born and raised near Toronto before he came to Minnesota for college at Bethel University, Frost still has a soft spot for those red and white sweaters with the maple leaf on them, with one notable exception.
He admits that when players he has recruited and coached at the U of M are on the ice wearing the red, white and blue of his adopted country, Frost is an all-American hockey fan. With that in mind, there is an excellent chance that Frost and his staff will be waving Old Glory in April when Team USA competes in the IIHF Women’s World Championships. Of the 53 players invited to the USA Hockey tryout camp, which is being held at the National Sports Center starting Sunday, Oct. 25, there are seven current Gophers and four former U of M skaters.
“I’m really happy for those guys. We always want to recruit players that have dreams of one day playing for their country and this is a great example of that,” Frost said. “Any time you’re invited to a camp, it’s a nice pick-me-up, so to get out there and be playing with and among the best players in the U.S. for a week should give them some great confidence. I know they’ll be looking forward to getting back and practicing with us at the end of October.”
Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Amanda Kessel, and Lee Stecklein already own gold medals from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and will be looking to add to their collection if they make the American squad. Current Gophers Emily Brown, Taylor Heise, Abbey Murphy, Maggie Nicholson, Gracie Ostertag, Madeline Wethington and Grace Zumwinkle will also be trying out for the American team, which is scheduled to compete in Nova Scotia from April 7-17.
“We are excited to get our top players together as we prepare for the upcoming season and head toward the 2022 Olympics,” said Katie Million, director of women's national team programs for USA Hockey and the former WCHA women’s commissioner. “We look forward to being in Blaine and ultimately the culmination of this season ahead in the world championship.”
Those 11 Gophers will see some familiar faces in Blaine, as Frost’s top assistant coach Joel Johnson will be an assistant for Team USA, while Gophers women’s equipment manager Brent Proulx and strength/conditioning coach Cal Dietz will serve in those roles for the Americans.
In addition to the Olympic crown, Team USA has won gold in five consecutive IIHF Women's World Championships, most recently in 2019 when they beat host Finland for the world title. In Nova Scotia, they will compete in Group A alongside Finland, Russia, Switzerland and host Canada.
Five of the 11 current and former Gophers are Minnesota Ms. Hockey award winners: Brandt (Hill-Murray, 2012), Cameranesi (Blake, 2013), Zumwinkle (Breck, 2017), Heise (Red Wing, 2018) and Wethington (Blake, 2019).
Hockey friends remember Hartman
As the former general manager of the National Basketball Association’s Minneapolis Lakers (before the team relocated to Los Angeles) and as one of the best friends of Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant, Sid Hartman was never one to pretend that hockey was his first love. Still, the Minnesota sports media icon would make the occasional yearly appearance at the old Mariucci Arena, especially in the days when Doug Woog coached the Gophers, and was a strong supporter of the NHL’s return to Minnesota in the form of the expansion Wild in 2000.
Hartman, who died on Sunday, Oct. 18, at the age of 100, just hours after his final column ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was widely known as a passionate, biased supporter of all Gophers sports, hockey included.
“He was a throwback in that he was a backer of the local teams while you were there. He wasn’t afraid to throw somebody under the bus after you were gone, but he was very loyal to the coaches when they were coaching,” said former Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia. “I think that’s a big reason why he had such close relationships with so many ... because he wasn’t out to write a bunch of negative things. It was much easier to return a call and take time because you knew Sid was going to do everything he could to make you look good and help your program.”
Lucia said a few times each hockey season, with no advance notice, Hartman would come storming into the Gophers’ hockey offices with his signature cassette recorder and microphone, looking for a scoop. For Lucia, being mentioned in Hartman’s column was a happy throwback to a childhood in northern Minnesota where the newspaper was the only source of sports news.
“My reflection is being an 11-year-old kid and fighting for the sports page with my dad and brother on Sunday morning,” Lucia said. “The first thing you wanted to do was open up to Page 2 and read Sid’s column. So for close to 50 years, I’ve been reading Sid’s column for all the tidbits. I can go back that far like many people can.”
Voice of American hockey retires
Perhaps there is a torch just waiting for someone like Dave Starman or Charlie Beattie or others to pick up and carry, as American hockey broadcasting will be looking for a new iconic voice to be certain. That is the situation after Mike “Doc” Emrick announced his retirement this week after 47 years as a hockey broadcaster. For the past 15 years, he has been the lead play-by-play voice for NHL broadcasts on NBC Sports, has covered six Olympics and 22 Stanley Cup Finals among countless major events.
From humble beginnings calling college (for Bowling Green over two seasons starting in 1971) and minor league hockey games, Emrick’s career grew to be so synonymous with the game in this country that in 2011 he was the first broadcaster inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He has been honored with a Sports Emmy Award eight times and is nicknamed “Doc” after earning his Ph.D. in broadcast communications.
“It was 50 years ago this fall, with pen and pad in hand at old Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, I got my first chance to cover the National Hockey League. Gordie Howe was a Red Wing, Bobby Hull was a Blackhawk, Bobby Orr was a Bruin,” said Emrick in a statement released by NBC. “A time like this makes me recall that we have seen a lot together. The biggest crowd ever, 105,000 at Michigan Stadium. A gold medal game that required overtime between the two North American powers in Vancouver.
“Things change over 50 years, but much of what I love is unchanged from then to now and into the years ahead. I still get chills seeing the Stanley Cup. I especially love when the horn sounds, and one team has won and another team hasn’t, all hostility can dissolve into the timeless great display of sportsmanship — the handshake line. I leave you with sincere thanks.”
During the 2005 NHL lockout, Emrick, who turned 74 in August, switched back to calling college hockey games and was the ESPN voice of the Gophers’ loss to North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinals in Columbus. He also called other sports, and was the broadcast voice for CBS Sports when Brett Favre made his Green Bay Packers’ debut in a 1992 game versus Cincinnati.