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Murray Williamson - 2005 Legend of College Hockey

By Watly Shaver

From a historical perspective, the 1960's will always be well known for the evolution of rock 'n roll, fast cars and fast food. Coincidentally, it was also an era when hockey in the U.S. exploded by leaps and bounds. The U.S. won Olympic gold in 1960 at Squaw Valley Cal. The NHL doubled from 6 to 12 teams in 1967 adding six American based cities, spawning growth in youth and college hockey.

Opportunity knocked and a Canadian kid by the name of Murray Williamson answered. His accomplishments from the mid 1960's to the mid 1970's left an indelible imprint on the growth of American hockey.

Spotted by the legendary John Mariucci while playing senior hockey in Eveleth, Minn., Williamson was recruited to be a Golden Gopher coming in with a class including Herb Brookes and Stu Anderson, both out of St. Paul Johnson high school. Williamson prospered under the guidance of big John through the late 1950's, culminating with All American honors in 1959.

"There were moments when we may have rubbed Maroosh the wrong way. Everyone new he had a real fear of flying - about the only way you could get John on a plane was get him pretty lubricated so he'd zonk out - so we used to take the train when we played in Michigan. John would always stop in Chicago, his old stomping grounds from his NHL days. Well, on one stopover, Jim Rantz and I ended up at an establishment known as the Blue Note. We spent the night hanging out with the nephew of mafia boss Lucky Luciano. That didn't go over real well with John, he was pretty upset with us."

Following a short semi-pro career in Ontario, Murray returned to the Twin Cities in 1962 as a player/coach, then owner of the St. Paul Steers in the USHL which then, was a senior semi-pro league. That team became the U.S. National team launching Williamson, now an American citizen, into an illustrious coaching career beginning with the World Championships in 1967 and continuing into the 1968 Olympics in Crenoble, France. "When I took over the national program in 1967, I insisted on Mariucci to be our coach for the Olympic team. He was colorful and controversial at the time but he also had some personal problems. By the time we reached Christmas, the team was in turmoil after 'we lost some games in Canada; I had to fire John. It wasn't a total surprise; everyone could sense it coming. John shook by hand and said, 'You talked to me the way I taught you.' It seemed to be a load off his mind. I kept him as a consultant and shortly after, the North Stars hired him. John then became a referee between me and North Stars coach Wren Blair, who wasn't real excited to lose Lou Nanne to our Olympic team and have him miss the Stars' practices."

Williamson continued to guide the U.S. National teams over the next couple of years and then shocked the world with a silver medal in the 1972 Olympics at Sapporo, Japan.

In 1973, Williamson was behind the launch of two more hockey projects still in operation today: the formation of the 6-team Midwest Junior Hockey League (now known as the USHL Junior league); and the inaugural U.S. National Junior team which he coached in the first ever World Junior Championships in Leningrad, Russia.

Besides Mariucci, one of Williamson's top coaching mentors was Soviet hockey icon Anatol Tarasov. Murray, in 1971, became the first North American coach ever to visit the Russian Army Training Camp. "I became good friends with him and respected his ideas and approach to the game. So many of his conditioning and training techniques were revolutionary at the time."

Williamson was also one of the first contacts Hobey Baker Award founder Chuck Bard made in 1980 when developing an award to honor America's top college hockey player. Very active in the early meetings, Murray assisted in bringing key committee members on board to implement the program.

Williamson has enjoyed a prosperous business career in real estate and hotel property management as well as founding Bemidji Hockey Camp with partner and former Hobey Baker Legend honoree Bob Peters.

As the Hobey celebrates 25 years of honoring college hockey's best, Murray Williamson is truly one of the great legends of American hockey. He and his wife Pat reside in the Twin Cities and raised three hockey players: Kevin (Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire), Randy (Lake Forest) and Dean (Univ. of Minnesota).