The temperature in International Falls, Minn., has fallen well below zero, but U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Dick Dougherty sees it as a great day for pond hockey.
Although, the Olympian and former Minnesota Golden Gopher is more likely to be found at the Thunderbird Lodge, a resort he owns with his brother, than outside playing hockey, it was on the frozen ponds in his backyard that learned to skate.
“It’s become a thing of the past,” said Dougherty. “Back then, everything was outdoors. We didn’t play on an indoor rink until high school, so playing indoors was a real treat.”
Dougherty was part of International Falls’ original high school varsity hockey team before taking his game to the University of Minnesota where he helped the Gophers put together two 23-win seasons, advancing to the NCAA Finals in 1954.
After college, the NHL’s Cleveland Barons (which later merged with the Minnesota North Stars) came calling, but Dougherty had to pass up the opportunity due to military commitments. His hockey career wouldn’t end there, as Dougherty was temporarily released from the Army to play internationally. He played for the fourth-place U.S. Men’s National Team at the 1955 IIHF World Championships and at the age of 23, led the 1956 U.S. Olympic team to the silver medal in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
He is widely considered to be one of the top five players in the nation during the 1950s and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
“Getting inducted was very flattering and really surprised me,” he said. “I didn’t expect to get to that level because I never played in the NHL.”
Dougherty now splits his time between the Thunderbird Lodge in International Falls and his home in Green Bay, Wis. Despite a trek of a couple hundred miles, he still manages to make it to a few Gophers’ games each year.
A game of pond hockey may have been typical of Dougherty’s early career, but those days of games outside in subzero temperatures are long over.
“Now I just get to sit back and enjoy it,” he said.
Where Are They Now?
John Blue, 1988 U.S. Olympic Team
John Blue spent much of his early years saving pucks. Now he dedicates his life to saving souls.
As the lead pastor at the Pacific Pointe Church in Irvine, Calif., Blue has parlayed his hockey career to reach out to others through Champions for Christ, a ministry founded in the mid-1980s that reaches out to professional and college athletes.
It’s another step in the colorful journey of a California surfer dude who grew up in Huntington Beach and made his way to the National Hockey League. Along the way, Blue made stops with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL and the University of Minnesota before landing a spot on the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.
Competing in the Calgary Olympics, Blue didn’t see any action backing up Mike Richter and Chris Terreri. He did see action in 13 games on the pre-Olympic tour, posting a 3.37 goals-against average.
Blue was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 10th round, 197th overall, of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft. Despite spending most of his career in the minor leagues, Blue played in 46 games for the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres before hanging up his competitive skates in 1997.
Today, Blue provides support for other Christian hockey players, including defenseman Brian Pothier of the Washington Capitals.
“The answers aren’t in winning the Stanley Cup,” Blue says. “Ultimately, that is not what is going to satisfy these men.”
Recalling The Man And The Mentor
Legends never die and although John Mariucci may have passed away in 1987, his legacy as the “Godfather of Minnesota Hockey” will always remain.
He led Minnesota hockey to national prominence, and inspired a number of NHL coaches like Herb Brooks, Bob Johnson and Lou Nanne. “When you lost, it was always tough to face Mariucci,” said Dick Dougherty, who played for Mariucci. “He was a good motivator and a good man.”
Known as a tough, but fair, coach, Mariucci posted a 215-148-18 record over 14 seasons.
Success in Minnesota prompted Mariucci, as head coach of the 1956 U.S. Olympic Team, to stack his roster with 11 Minnesotans. The strategy worked, and the Americans brought home a silver medal.
He is in both the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in his hometown of Eveleth, Minn., and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.