Claimed by South Saint Paul; adopted by the entire State of Hockey.
Doug Woog, the former coach of the University of Minnesota Gopher hockey team, passed away this past Saturday. Woog was 75.
Wooger was the Gopher coach for 14 years, leading the team to 12 consecutive national tournament appearances. He led the Gophers to the Frozen Four finals in his first four seasons behind the bench, and to six Frozen Fours in all.
At the time of Wooger’s retirement, he led the team in victories as a coach. Don Lucia has since passed him in wins. Woog still out paces Lucia in win percentage. His win percentage at Minnesota is also higher than two legends of the game: John Mariucci and Herb Brooks.
When Woog was coaching the Gophers, it was common knowledge in Minnesota, that if you wanted to complain about the Gopher power play, you didn’t have to go through the University switchboard. All you had to do was open the Saint Paul phone book: The Woogs were always listed.
After his coaching career, Woog made an incredibly easy transition into broadcasting Gopher hockey games. He was a natural, and another generation of fans came to know the Wooger.
Doug Woog made the South Saint Paul high school hockey team as a 5’6″, 140 pound freshman. Woog and the Packers went to four state tournaments in hockey. Woog was All-State for three years, was named to the State’s All-Tournament team for three years, and led the tournament in scoring in 1962.
For good measure, Woog was also All-State in football as a tailback.
Woog would go on to play for the University of Minnesota, under the God Father of Minnesota hockey, John Mariucci. He won three letters, since freshman were not allowed to play in this era. In 80 career games, Woog tallied 101 points. As a junior, he led the team in scoring, and was named First Team All-America. As a senior, Woog was named Gopher captain, and the team’s MVP.
With all of the high accolades that Woog received as both a hockey player and coach, I think he was really a teacher at heart.
When I was a student at the University of Minnesota, Doug Woog was the hockey coach. I spent many Friday & Saturday winter nights at the Old Mariucci Arena. Campus was a lot different back then. There was no “athlete village”, and running into players and coaches was a common occurrence. Since I played some rec sports during my time at the “U”, I was often around the sports facilities and I only remember two coaches that gave the time of day to the average student. One was the still current baseball coach, John Anderson, and the other was Woog. A quick comment to Woog of “Nice win on Saturday, Coach”, would more often than not get a response about how the transition game wasn’t quite what he was looking for, or the power play left some goals on the ice.
Once, while at Williams Arena, I literally ran into Coach Woog. I was probably picking up student tickets to the weekend series, and was bundled up to race across campus for a class I shouldn’t be late for. I bumped into Woog on my way to the door, and he joked about my being in a hurry, then he asked if I was going to the game on Friday. I said I was, then I said that the Gophers would have a tough time with So-And-So in goal for the opposing team. Woog then spent the next ten minutes telling me exactly how and why So-And-So would be that tough. Then he spent ten minutes telling me about their defensive corps. If I hadn’t stopped him, I think Coach Woog would have given me the run down on their entire line up, as well. I was young and foolish back then, and I thought that the class was a priority, so I raced off, no doubt leaving Woog chuckling. I was quite late to class anyway, and the professor made sure everyone in the hall knew I was late. It’s only years later that I realize that the class was the least important thing I did that entire day.
My favorite Woog story comes, of course, from North Dakota, Minnesota’s main rival at the time. As a student, nothing was better than a bus ride to Grand Forks to see Minnesota play NoDak. There is just something about youth that longs to be surrounded by people who utterly hate your very existence. A trip to Madison was second best; hat tip towards Peewaukee. Back in the day, when NoDak played the Gophers, their fans would throw dead prairie dogs onto the ice when North Dakota scored their first goal. Woog’s Gophers had one mission: To keep those dead prairie dogs in the NoDak fans’ pockets for as long as possible. A shutout was an epic victory. Woog relished the idea of the stinky, dead rodents thawing out inside the NoDak jackets.
I became excited about college hockey as a very young kid, sitting in the stands at Old Mariucci with my Dad, watching Herb Brooks coach the Gophers to national prominence. That culminated with the 1980 Miracle on Ice. But there is no doubt that I learned the game of hockey watching the Doug Woog coached Gophers.
Woog was a class act through and through, and he will be missed at rinks all around Minnesota. His passion and dedication to the sport was infectious, and he passed that on to so many people, that he didn’t even know were watching.
Rest in peace, Wooger.