With the brilliance of the CCHA title run lingering, I’ve got little choice but to turn to the ice for this edition of eBay Watch.  In a nod to Michigan’s hot junior goalie Shawn Hunwick, we start off with the auction of a wire photo taken in March 1953 featuring Wolverine goaltender Willard Ikola:

Hair?  Smooth.  Smile? Smooth.  Ice?  Not so smooth.

Like Hunwick, Ikola wasn’t exactly a towering presence in the crease as according to the back of the wire pic he checked in at 5’8”, 152 pounds.

I believe this shot was taken just a few days before the 1953 version of the Frozen Four which in its early years was held at the supersized Broadmoor Hotel complex in Colorado Springs.  (Sidenote: Grab a copy of Blue Ice if you want some awesome history on the NCAA tournament, the Broadmoor and of course Michigan.)

The Blue made the best of the trip, shelling Boston College 14-2 in the semis and smoking Minnesota 7-3 to claim one of coach Vic Heyliger’s six NCAA titles.  Check out this photo of the 1953 team with the trophy, a beauty queen (I think this explains why these teams kept coming back each year), and Ikola flashing his killer smile:

1953 NCAA hockey champs
#4 is damn smooth! Photo: U-M Bentley Library 

Ikola’s story doesn’t end there—not even close.

A few years later Ikola minded the nets for the US Olympic hockey team in the 1956 Games, leading the Americans to the silver medal.   Although they dropped the championship game to the Soviets, the American inflicted some serious and surprising damage getting to that point.  In the battle against heavily favored Canada, Ikola stood on his head, stopping 38 shots on the way to a 4-1 shocker.   He, along with teammate John Matchefts, became the first Wolverines to medal in the winter Olympic Games.

Ikola went on to a legendary coaching career at Edina East High in Edina, MN.  In 1991 he was named the John Mariucci Award as the American Hockey Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and later into the national high school coaches HOF and Michigan athletics Hall of Honor.

To his players he is known as ‘Coach Ike’ and was even featured in Sports Illustrated March in 1991.  No shocker here as all signs indicate that Coach Ike is a real beauty.  In this excerpt, Ikola reflects on his days beyond Ann Arbor:

The U.S. lost the gold to the Soviet Union 4-0. "It was closer than that," Ikola says. But quickly he jumps back into his self-deprecating mode and says, "The older you get, the better you were. I was a consistent goalie. That’s all." He played on the U.S. team in 1957 and ’58 while serving as a navigator in the Air Force, and in 1958 he also hooked up with Edina, for $5,400 a year. He was offered a deal to go pro, but back then the pay wasn’t much to speak of (less than five figures) and he had already seen the world, thanks to hockey and the Air Force. Besides, "I just wanted to coach," he says.

His Michigan ties run right into the current team as current Wolverine assistant coach (and possibly M’s next head coach?) Mel Pearson played for Ikola in Edina.

Someone has already put an opening bid of $9.99 in on the wire photo.  The auction ends March 25.

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1 Comment

  1. I played against Ikola’s Edina squads in the late 1980’s (by then Edina East and West had mereged into one high school).

    Despite the fact that Edina was one of our most hated rivals, Coach Ike, and his top assistant Bob O’Connor were both great coaches and great guys.