MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Winning the state hockey tournament is a big deal. In ’67 it changed the lives of a group of guys from the Iron Range. The Greenway Raiders won their first State Championship that year. The players, coaches and their families came together this weekend to reminisce and celebrate the historic win. WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle was there for the team’s 50th anniversary reunion.
Old teammates who shared a magical moment in time greet each other.
In 1967, 17 guys did something pretty special as part of the Greenway Raiders hockey team.
“To get out and get to the state tournament was a big step and I’ll tell you what, we had a bunch of guys from a bunch of little towns that came together and didn’t like each other very much and played hard together and ended up coming down here and winning,” Mike Antonovich said.
People were rooting for the underdogs, the team from the Iron Range.
“I think it was and is still a source of pride. Pride for the community, for the school,” captain Jeff Kosak said.
Coach Bob Gernander knew the team had what it takes.
“We weren’t always the greatest team but we just seemed to put everything together at the right time. The big thing about that team is it wasn’t led by any one individual, there was some — I mean it was such a balanced team. It’s one of the first teams that ever played with three lines in the state tournament,” Gernander said.
“I think us guys were so scared of losing, letting the Iron Range down, it was just — we needed to win and I think that’s what drove us,” Antonovich said.
The win against St. Paul Johnson changed the path for some of the players.
Jim MacNeil, who scored the winning goal, received a call from the West Point hockey coach.
“He said, ‘How’d you like to come out east and play hockey for me,’”MacNeil said.
Others went on to play college hockey at Dartmouth, St. Mary’s, Concordia and the U of M.
Mike Antonovich was a Gopher, later drafted by the North Stars.
The bond between the team remains 50 years later.
And pride in that first championship sticks with them to this day.
“Just the sense that we felt somehow that it was our destiny,” Kosak said.
All of the players and coaches from that team are still living. Nearly all made it to the reunion.
When the Raiders won in ’67, the tournament was different. There was only one class, and eight teams competed in the state tournament.