Glen Sonmor - 1999 Legend of College Hockey
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is by no means a place you have likely driven through, heard of, or even discovered by accident on a map. Moose Jaw, rather, is the birthplace of Glen Sonmor. Very much like Sonmor's persona, the name of the city is colorful and leaves a lasting impression on you.
The Sonmor family made their home in Moose Jaw through Glen's fourth birthday before moving from Moose Jaw to Hamilton, Ontario. It was in Hamilton that Somor began his athletic prowess. Sonmor participated on the high school teams in football, basketball and baseball. In an area where it is not uncommon for Canadian hock-ey players to leave home at an early age to begin their career, Sonmor elected to finish high school playing sports other than hockey before he took to the ice and left home at the age of 18.
His first stop was a junior team in Guelph, Ontartio. He later joined a team in Brandon, Manitoba that competed for the top prize in junior hockey, the prestigious Memorial Cup. This was the opportuni¬ty and the year that presented a future in hockey for Sonmor.
"This was when I realized you could make a living playing hock¬ey," said Sonmor.
Sonmor spent the next several years bouncing around playing pro¬fessionally but it was a stop in Minneapolis playing for Millers that would give Sonmor his connection to Minnesota hockey. It was with the Millers that he met an ' '1 with the Godfather of Minnesota hock¬ey, John Mariucci.
"John was a Godsend, a Godfather, my Guardian Angel," said Sonmor. "John was the one who encouraged me to attend school at the University (of Minnesota)."
For the next few summers and during the off-season of his profes¬sional career, Sonmor attended classes pursuing a degree in physical ed¬ucation. This continued for a few seasons until his playing career came to an abrupt end after he was hit in the eye with a puck during a game in Cleveland. The damage was so severe that Sonmor lost the eye. His playing career was over at the young age of 26.
Mariucci invited him the next season, to coach Minnesota's fresh¬man team that included Herb Brooks in 1956. Under Mariucci's tute¬lage he began a coaching career and bounced around cities coaching farm clubs of professional organizations.
A family decision brought him back to Hamilton for a few years but coaching soon called and Sonmor returned to Ohio State Universi¬ty. He began work towards his masters degree and also coached the hockey team. After spending a year with the Buckeyes, Sonmor was of¬fered the head coaching position at Minnesota after the departure of his good friend Mariucci.
"John was the fruits of encouragement for me," said Sonmor. "He stressed the high school player ... and the importance of the Minnesota players in particular."
Rather than bringing in older junior players, Sonmor continued in Mariucci's tradition and looked to high school talent. Mike Antonovich and Dean Blais were among one particular recruiting class Sonmor mold¬ed to bring the Gophers to a National Championship game.
It was also at Minnesota that Sonmor joined up with Lou Nanne. A freshman coach on the teams Sonmor coached, Nanne was coming off an All-America career at the U and beginning a friendship with Sonmor that would carry through professional hockey.
Sonmor coached the Gophers from 1966-1971. He produced three All-Americans including Gary Gambucci, Murray McLachlan and Wally Olds. Those Minnesota freshman that he "took a chance on" by not going to Canada for the more experienced junior player, would go on to lead the team in scoring consecutive years (Antonovich in 1970 and Blais in 1971).
Sonmor graduated from the college ranks to the professional game and coached in the WHA for several years including five with the St. Paul Fighting Saints. He broke into the NHL reuniting with Nanne in the Minnesota North Stars organization. Among the more memorable of Sonmor's seasons behind the North Stars bench was the 1981 run to the Stanley Cup finals. Perhaps the most memorable to Sonmor was the year prior when the Stars knocked off the four-time champion Montreal Cana¬dians in the playoffs.
Sonmor definitely enjoyed a prosperous professional career but it was at the collegiate level that he may have enjoyed the most.
"When I look back over time...the happiest years may be at the (Uni¬versity)," said Sonmor. "I have had a wonderful and fortunate career."
Although Sonmor's coaching path took him from the college to the professional game in a short time, he left his impression at Minnesota has lasted for decades. The tradition that Sonmor continued through Mariuc¬ci is one that is still honored at Minnesota today. Considered one of the top programs in college hockey, all of the players on the Gopher roster are from Minnesota and are products of Minnesota high school programs.
His colorful personality has also touched many lives. Legend has it that while coaching a game during his career, Sonmor came upon a call by the official that he disagreed with. As the official came within earshot, Sonmor popped out his false eye and offered it to the official exclaiming "here, you take this, you need it more than I do."
Whether this story is true, the impression it leaves is as far-reaching as the distance between Minneapolis and Moose Jaw. It is indicative of the colortui person Sonmor is and the career he has enjoyed. It will continue to live on and touch people so much like Sonmor has his entire career.
So much like the story of a Legend always does.