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Jeff Sauer - 2013 Legend of College Hockey

by Wally Shaver

Finding a place in hockey has never been an issue for Jeff Sauer. It seems like he’s always been in the game. Whether it was playing, coaching or involved in administrative capacities, Sauer has been as synonymous to the game as a puck.

A veteran of 31 years coaching at the elite Division I college level in the WCHA, Sauer is the only person in league annals to coach 30 seasons and is also the winningest coach. Additionally, he currently ranks fifth all-time in games coached at 1244 and is eighth overall in college hockey wins at 655 between his stints with Colorado College and Wisconsin.

Following his playing career at Colorado College in the mid-1960s, Sauer joined legendary coach Bob Johnson as an assistant at CC in 1966, then, followed Johnson to Wisconsin in a similar capacity in 1968. The head coaching job opened at Colorado College in 1971 and coach Sauer began his extensive career guiding the Tigers for the next 11 seasons until 1982. At that point, Badger Bob Johnson accepted the head coaching reigns with the NHL’s Calgary Flames and Sauer was named the next Wisconsin head coach.

In his first season behind the Badger bench, Sauer claimed the NCAA tournament title in 1982-83, the first time in NCAA history a coach had won the title in his -inaugural season. He added a second national championship with the Badgers in 1990. Sauer went on to coach Wisconsin for 20 years, retiring following the 2002 hockey season. In WCHA play at Wisconsin, Sauer’s teams finished amongst the top three teams in 14 of his 20 seasons and won league titles in 1990 and 2000.

As one of the most respected coaches in the game, coach Sauer has continued to be the consummate diplomat to the sport. During the 1990s, Sauer worked with USA Hockey guiding a variety of teams competing on the national and international stage.

Forty years ago, Jeff became involved with former Chicago Blackhawks star Stan Makita, assisting him with summer camps for the hearing-impaired. For the past half dozen years, Jeff has been working with the U.S. Deaf-lympics program, and recently assembled a squad to participate in the World Deaf Hockey Championships held in Helsinki, Finland at the end of March, losing in the bronze medal game. 

His work with the Deaflympics program led to another passion of his, coaching the U.S. Sled Hockey team the past three years since the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics. Jeff took a team comprised of handicapped sled hockey players from a dozen states to Seoul, South Korea for the World Championships in April, losing in the gold medal game to Canada by a slim 1-0 score, completing their season with an impressive 14-3 overall record.

If all that is not enough, Sauer served as a disciplinary judge for the IIHF World Hockey Championships just completed this past week in Helsinki featuring some of the top pro and amateur players in the world. Jeff also continues in his role as an Assistant to the Commissioner in the WCHA. His legacy has not gone unnoticed as Jeff was honored by USA Hockey in 2000 with their Distinguished Achievement Award and by the NHL in 2011 as a recipient of their Lester Patrick Award for outstanding contributions to hockey in the U.S.