Jeff Sauer, who coached the University of Wisconsin to a pair of NCAA men’s hockey titles, died Thursday because of pancreatic cancer. He was 73.
Sauer played prep hockey at Washington High School in St. Paul.
Sauer started his head coaching career at his alma mater, Colorado College in 1971, and moved to Madison to coach the Badgers when Bob Johnson resigned in 1982 to take over the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Sauer, who got his coaching start as an assistant to Johnson at Colorado College, won the NCAA title in his first season at Wisconsin (1982-83) and earned another title in 1990.
He has the 10th most victories by any college coach, with a 655-532-57 record in 31 seasons.
Sauer coached at Wisconsin until 2002, when he was replaced by Mike Eaves.
“Very sad to hear of Coach Sauer’s passing,” Gophers coach Don Lucia tweeted. “He was one of the great men of hockey, and we were lucky to have him.”
Sauer coached the U.S. men’s sled hockey team to a gold medals in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Very saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Sauer,” tweeted Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, who worked with Sauer on U.S. national teams. “He was a friend, great coach and even better person who made our sport that much better.”
On the eve of Hockey Day in Minnesota, Sauer was supposed to help coach a group of Wisconsin alumni in a game against Gophers alumni in Stillwater on Jan. 20, but was too ill to attend. Several of his former players found out about their coach’s battle with cancer at that time.
Sauer, a native of Fort Atkinson, Wis., was a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and won the NHL’s Lester Patrick Trophy in 2011. He is survived by his wife, Jamie, and two adult children.