2012 AAA Bio Thread
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11-09-2012, 05:19 PM
MLD Glue Guy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: BC, Canada
D/C John Mayasich
6'1, 216 lbs
1960 Olympic Gold Medal
1956 Olympic Silver Medal
Member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame
US Hockey Hall of Fame:
“Mayasich, who was probably the best amateur hockey player in America at the time, added muscle and hustle to the defense…,” so said coach Jack Riley, speaking of the Eveleth-born-and-reared skater, whose addition to the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team helped bring this country its first gold medal.
After playing for coaching legend Cliff Thompson in Eveleth, Mayasich went on to play for another Eveleth coaching legend, John Mariucci, at the University of Minnesota —both of whom are also U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinees. The silky smooth skater went on to three great years at Minnesota, being named an All American in each year (1953-55). Minnesota made it to the NCAA Tournament in 1954, only to lose an overtime heart-breaker to R.P.I in the championship game. The Gophers lost, but Mayasich scored four goals and five assists in two tournament games, as well as being named to the all-tournament first team.
His 29-49-78 and 41-39-80 scoring logs were good enough to win WCHA scoring titles in 1954 and 1955, as well. Following college, Mayasich was a performer with eight U.S. Olympic and National teams beginning with the 1956 silver medal winner.
It is, of course, the 1960 team which is so well remembered, though. Mayasich, who had by this time been shifted to defense, played brilliantly. His slap shot at Canadian goalie Don Head was quickly converted for a goal, which proved to be the winner in the critical 2-1 victory. Declining professional hockey opportunities, Mayasich devoted his remaining hockey career to the amateur Green Bay Bobcats.
Sports Illustrated (Dec. 13, 1999) - "The Quiet American -
John Mayasich was a wizard on ice but never got a shot to prove it in the NHL "
That Mayasich is little known outside his home state is an accident of time and place rather than the result of any limitation in his skills. "I don't care who you name, John could have played with them," says former Harvard coach Billy Cleary, who starred with Mayasich on the victorious 1960 U.S. Olympic team in Squaw Valley. "If you were to name an alltime American team, he'd be on it, either as a forward or a defenseman."
"Like a lot of great American players of his era, John came along at the wrong time," says Herb Brooks, a former national teammate of Mayasich, who coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal and, later, the NHL's New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Minnesota North Stars.
"He had a great shot and was a tremendous playmaker and skater," Brooks says, "but what set him apart was that he was the smartest hockey player I've been around. He was subtle, like a great chess master, and he made players around him better. It was like he saw the game in slow motion."
Mayasich, who played center, never lost a game in his high school career, leading tiny Eveleth High to 69 straight wins and four state titles in a row, from 1948 to '51. No other team has done that. The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the most prestigious of its kind in the country, and Mayasich's name is still all over the record books. He owns 10 tournament scoring records, including most goals in one game (seven); most goals, career (36 in 12 games); most hat tricks, (seven in 12 games); and most points, one tournament (18 in three games).
During college he developed the weapon that was to become his offensive trademark: the slap shot. He learned about it while working in, of all places, Eveleth's open-pit mines during the summer with his friend and teammate Willard Ikola. Ikola had been the goalie on Eveleth's state championship teams. He went to college at Michigan, and every year the Wolverines played an exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings. Some of the Wings were experimenting with the slap shot—a little-used novelty young players like Boom Boom Geoffrion of the Montreal Canadiens had introduced. Ikola described the shot to Mayasich, who'd never seen it.
This was before the innovation of the curved stick, and few players had the strength and coordination to master the slap shot. "I worked on it quite a bit," Mayasich says. "I had strong wrists from baseball and tennis, and got to where I could really let it go. If I was aiming at the right pipe, I'd come within six inches most of the time. I'd use it when I came down three-on-two, waiting till the defense backed in enough to let me get across the blue line. Then I'd slap it, and if the goalie stopped it there was usually a rebound. If the defense held the blue line, I'd pass off to a wing."
Mayasich became a scoring machine. His career scoring records at Minnesota still stand: 144 goals, 298 points in 111 games between 1951 and '55, a staggering average of 2.68 points per game. ( Gretzky averaged 2.62 points per game in his best four-season stretch in the NHL, 1982-86.) The Gophers' coach was John Mariucci, who had played defense for the Chicago Blackhawks, and he set up an exhibition game between the Hawks and the Gophers, which Chicago won, 5-3. "John scored two goals, and I thought he was the best player on the ice," recalls Jack McCartan, who played goalie for the 1960 U.S. Olympic team and made it to the NHL for a few games with the Rangers. "There's no doubt he could have played in the NHL. He was the best American hockey player I've ever seen."
But Mayasich got no offers to pursue an NHL career after college. The league was made up of only six teams, all with Canadian general managers. College players—especially U.S. college players—were not considered NHL material. Mayasich, who was in ROTC, also faced a two-year military obligation. "It wasn't a source of bitterness, since no college players were being given a chance," Mayasich says now. "But there's still regret, even to this day, not knowing if I could have done it."
International Hockey Legends
John Mayasich is regarded as one of the best amateur hockey players in the history of the United States.
Mayasich returned to international competition in five World Championships - 1958, 1961, 1962, 1966 and 1969. His best tournament was in 1962 when he was named to the All Star team and earned a bronze medal.
Mayasich declined many professional hockey opportunities to remain amateur with the Green Bay Bobcats as a player, coach, and general manager. He also worked as a high school teacher, an encyclopedia salesman and a radio employee.
Vintage Minnesota Hockey
Although Mayasich was a dominant force in the college ranks, he never chose to turn pro. The Iron Ranger had other commitments. "I was in the ROTC program when I was at the U," Mayasich said. "I had a two-year obligation. I played in the 1956 Olympics that was coached by (former Gophers coach John) Mariucci. I took my degree in education. And with three kids in my family and only six teams in the National Hockey League, I accepted a job at Stanley Hubbard (broadcasting). I don't regret any of it."
John Mariucci, in the most hyperbolic hockey quote of all time:
"John brought college hockey to a new plateau," Mariucci once said. "He was the Wayne Gretzky of his time. And today if he were playing pro hockey, he would simply be a bigger, stronger, back-checking Gretzky."
The First Miracle on Ice - Kevin Allen
The 26-year-old Mayasich was a veteran of several international tournaments. To this day, no American player can match Mayasich's record of playing for eight national teams. During the week, he was an advertising executive for a television station, but on weekends he played for the Green Bay Bobcats in the United States Hockey League.
He had been a high-scoring center in college hockey, netting 144 goals in 111 career games at Minnesota. In his senior season, he had 41 goals and 39 assists in 30 games. Opponents simply had no way to shut him down. His moves were too crafty, his shots too hard. He credits former Chicago Blackhawk player Doc Romnes, his coach for just one year at Minnesota, for refining the puck-handling skills that would serve him well for decades.
Playing center on a line with Bill Cleary and John Matchefts at the 1956 Games in Cortina, Mayasich led the Americans in scoring with six goals and four assists. He had a hat trick in the USA's 4-1 win against Canada.
But the Bobcats liked to use Mayasich on defense, because then he could dominate both ends of the ice. Riley, head coach at West Point, also liked Mayasich as a defenseman and let everyone know from the beginning that Mayasich was going to be added to the team right before the Olympics began. Mayasich didn't meet the team until the day before the games began in Squaw Valley.
Yet another product of Eveleth's hockey factory, Mayasich had his own unique calling card -- a wicked slap shot that would have been the envy of any NHLer except Bobby Hull. "He was way ahead of his time on that slap shot," Cleary said.
Mayasich began experimenting with it during college when Eveleth goaltender Willard Ikola, then playing at the University of Michigan, told him how he had seen another player attempt it. With his skills, Mayasich was able to master the concept just based on Ikola's description.
His slap shot was particularly befuddling to international competitors because it was completely foreign to players outside of North America.
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