John E. "Connie" Pleban - 1992 Legend of College Hockey
John E. "Connie" Pleban, born and raised in Eveleth, Minnesota, has devoted more than 50 years of his life to the game of ice hockey. He's been involved in just about all phases, from pee-wee to professional. He was tabbed with the name "Conacher" during his teen years by his teammates and peers after the legendary Conacher brothers and the nickname was shortened to "Connie" in his early twenties.
Connie Pleban played in the formative days of Northern Minnesota hockey, including Eveleth High School (1930-1932) and Eveleth Junior College (1932-34). He played for the Baby Ruth national AAU champs in 1935, and was captain and later player-coach of the Eagle River, Wisconsin, Falcons semi-pro team (1934-38). He was player-coach with the Eveleth Rangers semi-pro team (1938-41) and the Marquette, Michigan Sentinels semi-pro team (1941-42) before entering the service for World War II. Returning to Eveleth, Pleban moved on as a coach and builder of amateur hockey, serving as player-coach of the Eveleth Rangers again and then holding the unique post of player-coach-manager of the U.S. National team that won the Silver medal in London with a 4-1 record in 1950.
Pleban was named to reconstruct the U.S. fortunes for the 1952 Olympics. His team won the silver medal at Oslo, Norway, with a 6-1-1 record, losing only a 4-2 game to Sweden and tying gold medalist Canada 3-3.
In 1955, Pleban coached Minnesota Duluth, and helped lead its transition from small-college to major-college status. In four years, Pleban's UMD teams never lost a game in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Pleban successfully solicited NCAA rule-makers to expand bodychecking from half to full ice.
Pleban coached the U.S. in the 1961 World Tournament in Geneva, which was 1-5-1, but in 1962, after only two preparatory games, he coached the U.S. to a 5-2 record and the bronze medal at Colorado Springs. A Duluth resident, Pleban also helped organize amateur teams and leagues throughthe 60's and 70's.
One need only scan Pleban's lifetime hockey history to see why he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.
Pleban had this to say about his honor tonight: "I'm deeply honored to be the recipient of the 'Legend' award, especially in conjunction with the Hobey Baker Presentation. I want to thank all those who gave me that consideration. Now, I can go out to pasture.