ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Gophers legend's new book offers a front row seat for the growth of American hockey in the 1960s and '70s

Now 88, Murray Williamson's new book “The Road to Respectability” chronicles some of the legendary foundational moments.

williamson-book-cover.png
Released in the summer of 2022, "The Road to Respectability" by John Schaidler with Murray Williamson chronicles the growth of American amateur and international hockey in the 1960s and '70s.
Contributed / Beaver's Pond Press

MINNEAPOLIS — In modern international hockey, the marketing and promotion of a national team is treated with the same importance as the men and women who actually play the games. It is safe to say that Murray Williamson’s time in international hockey was a different era.

Williamson came to the University of Minnesota from Winnipeg to get an education and play for the Golden Gophers in the late 1950s, and made his home in the State of Hockey. Now 88, Williamson's new book “The Road to Respectability” chronicles some of the legendary foundational moments in the growth of American hockey in the 1960s and ‘70s.

While coaching the 1968 and 1972 American men’s Olympic teams — the latter of which won the silver medal — Williamson had a front row seat in the days when the red, white and blue would get booed by fans in Wisconsin during an exhibition game versus the Badgers, or when officials at Cornell offered the nation’s two dozen finest hockey players a run-down dormitory to stay in prior to a game versus the Big Red.

“There are so many stories about the 1968 team and the 1972 team that went untold, and I always flew under the radar,” Williamson told The Rink Live. “I didn’t walk around promoting our team, so I wanted to write this book to preserve some of this stuff, and as a legacy to my family.”

The 1960s were a turbulent time in America, not only in terms of things civil rights and the Vietnam War, but on the hockey rink as well. After winning Olympic gold in 1960, American hockey hit some hard times. Three years after standing atop the international hockey podium, the Americans suffered a humiliating 17-2 loss to Sweden, which prompted then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy (who knew the game from his time in East Coast prep school and at Harvard) to ask derisively, “Who are we sending over there, girls?”

ADVERTISEMENT

Williamson came on the scene a short time later, befriending and learning from hockey legends like Anatoly Tarasov, the father of the Russian hockey machine which dominated international play for three decades. Not only did the former Gopher lead the Americans in the Olympics, Williamson helped develop promising young coaches like Herb Brooks, and coached the American entry in the first World Junior Championships in 1974. In the summer, Williamson and friends would run a hockey school in Bemidji, which was the top destination for warm-weather training in an era where it was common for hockey players to take the open water months off.

“I’ve talked to Murray quite a bit. He’s definitely a storyteller, and a great hockey guy,” said current Gophers coach Bob Motzko. “You bump into him and whether you’re talking about the Bemidji hockey school, his USA Hockey days, Gophers, he’s pretty much got it all covered.”

The book, which Williamson co-wrote with John Schaidler, retails for $39.95 from Beaver’s Pond Press and features a foreword by another Gophers legend, Lou Nanne. It contains not only endless hockey stories, but dozens of photos from a formative era in amateur hockey in Minnesota and throughout the nation.

Note: Williamson will be signing copies of his book at the Gophers men’s hockey game versus Penn State on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.

READ MORE MINNESOTA GOPHERS COVERAGE:
The Rink Live reporters discuss Bulldogs sweeping top-ranked Huskies, Minnesota running away with Big Ten, North Dakota sweeps Miami, recap of WCHA action
Needing things to do other than skate, eat and sleep during the holiday break, Colin Schmidt brought a popular board game to campus. In the six weeks since then, Catan has taken the Gophers by storm.
Minnesota Duluth scored two power play goals, but was denied a major power play in the second after losing a controversial challenge.
Trailing in the second period, the Minnesota Gophers got solid goaltending and woke up offensively to sweep their weekend series versus visiting Michigan State.
It took only nine ticks of the clock for Minnesota Gophers rookie Logan Cooley to give his team a lead, and that was just the beginning of their dominance of the Spartans on Friday.
Olivia King has been scratched from the lineup. She’s played forward. She’s been the No. 3 goalie. Whatever the role, King has accepted it and has prepared herself to help her team.
Four of the Minnesota Gophers' last five games have required overtime to settle, and while the fans and the players find 3-on-3 hockey to be vastly entertaining, their coach has seen enough.
When the Minnesota Gophers need to force overtime lately, they turn to the lanky guy on the blue line with the skills of a defenseman and the instincts of a forward. Also: WCHA honors Heise, Kaiser.
The Rink Live reporters discuss the Huskies move to No. 1 in the rankings, Bulldogs and Fighting Hawks staying put, entertaining Big 10 series, recap WCHA action
The Minnesota Gophers rallied twice in their Saturday game with Michigan, but could not find overtime magic for the second night in a row, settling for a split of their weekend Big Ten series.
A power-play goal in the final seconds of overtime was the difference-maker as the Minnesota Gophers came from behind for a critical Big Ten win over Michigan on Friday.
Bemidji State returned to its hometown rink for the first time since Dec. 3, but a contest back among the comforts of home didn’t fix what has ailed the Beavers.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
What to read next
A rep from Minnesota Sports and Events traveled to Canada for the 2023 World Juniors to see what the fuss is all about, and they plan to bid on bringing the 2026 tournament to the State of Hockey.
The Americans technically had their worst finish in tournament history, but they'll still be coming home with a bronze medal after a 5-0 win to Finland.
Sweden pulled off a 2-1 win over the Americans to advance to the gold-medal game. It's the first time in history that Team USA will not play for gold.
Team Canada was without captain Jocelyn Amos (not dressed) and leading scorer Alex Law (suspended) in the rivalry game at the U18 Women's Worlds