The Little Brown Jug has already seen one pandemic, and on a field in Minneapolis, Michigan and Minnesota will fight for it once again in the midst of a second pandemic.
The teams were already rivals in 1903, when Fielding Yost, and his Michigan Wolverines, left behind the 25 cent crockery. The Gophers painted the jug brown, and wrote the final score on it. The next time the two teams met, they agreed that the jug would make a nice trophy. Minnesota and Michigan have been battling for the jug ever since.
There was an eight year gap when Michigan left the Big Ten Conference, but the two teams were scheduled to restart their rivalry in 1918. That game never happened.
Minnesota had its first case of influenza in late September 1918. Within three weeks, there were over 1500 cases reported. Businesses were shut down, and gatherings banned by October 9. Like today, there were mixed reactions to the precautions. The University of Minnesota did not reopen until October 23.*
Sports across the country dealt with the pandemic, just like today. Alabama and LSU did not have a season. The World Series was played early, and the Stanley Cup was called off after 5 games because Montreal could not field a healthy team.**
It wasn’t the pandemic that kept Michigan from playing Minnesota in 1918, but the war effort. The Army had instituted a travel ban, so teams had to keep their games close to campus.
The two rivals did meet again in 1919. The Gophers won 34-7, with 1919 being the only year Yost finished with a losing record (3-4).
The Big Ten returns on Saturday, which many consider a good thing, and just as many probably do not. In any event, we have been here before, even though it predates the vast majority of us. We did get through it.
The very same 25 cent Jug will be up for grabs for the 104th time on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Claimed by South Saint Paul; adopted by the entire State of Hockey.
Credit: Golden Gopher 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 receives a kiss from his goaltender after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Minneapolis Patrick Henry in the 1959 state tournament. Photo: Minnesota Hockey Hub
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.
Doug Woog as a Gopher; Photo credit: Golden Gopher Hockey
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.
Wooger showing concern over Referee Shepherd’s eyesight
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.
Fred Cox attempts to put one through the uprights at The Met, Paul Krause holding
Fred Cox, the long time kicker for the Minnesota Vikings, passed away this week. He was 80, just three weeks shy of his 81st birthday.
Cox was drafted by the Cleveland Browns as a fullback out of the University of Pittsburgh. The plan was for Cox to block for the future Hall of Famer, Jim Brown. A back injury had legendary coach Paul Brown telling Cox to switch to kicker. Unfortunately, another Hall of Famer, Lou Groza was still kicking for Cleveland. Cox was traded to Minnesota, and became their full time kicker in 1963.
Cox would play 15 seasons for the Vikings, never missing a game. He retired as the franchise leading scorer with 1365 points. Still the franchise record.
Cox was named All-Pro for the 1969-1971 seasons, playing in the 1970 Pro Bowl. He is one of 11 Vikings to have played in all four of their Super Bowl appearances. Cox was also named to the squad of the Top 50 Vikings when the team hit their 50th Anniversary.
While playing for the Vikings, Cox and Minneapolis resident John Mattox teamed up to invent the NERF football. While Mattox wanted a heavy ball that “kids couldn’t kick out of their yards”, Cox suggested a foam ball to “prevent a bunch of sore legged kids.” After making a mold, and injecting it with foam, Cox & Mattox took the ball to Parker Bros. The rest is back yard history. Not to mention a few living rooms.
As a young kid, my Dad would take me out to the old Met, and I saw Freddie the Foot kick many, many times, and I can’t tell you how many NERF footballs I owned when I was growing up. Rest In Peace, Freddie; you were in the middle of a lot of very good memories.
The Minnesota/Wisconsin rivalry is the most played in FBS football. They first met in Minneapolis in 1890, with Minnesota winning 63-0.
On Saturday, the two teams met up for the 128th time. On the line, just like every year since 1948, was Paul Bunyan’s Axe. With a solid win at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, The Axe returns to the University of Minnesota campus for the first time since 2003.
The overall record between the two teams in the border rivalry is 60-60-8.
Golden Gopher Football players with The Axe; Photo credit:(AP/Andy Manis)
Jim Thorpe competing in the Stockholm Olympics, 1912
Jim Thorpe is considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern times. After winning gold in both the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, King Gustav V of Sweden said to Thorpe, “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”
Thorpe was a collegiate All-American, NFL All-Pro & charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, and played baseball with three different MLB teams. He also played for a traveling professional basketball team.
Jim Thorpe Olympic statue near Jim Thorpe, PA
When in Pennsylvania for hockey, we traveled through Jim Thorpe, PA. Originally founded as Mauch Chunk, the community made a deal with Jim Thorpe’s widow in 1953. After Thorpe’s funeral in Shawnee, OK, city officials of Mauch Chunk bought his remains from his third wife, and Thorpe’s body was shipped to Pennsylvania without the rest of the family’s knowledge.
Jim Thorpe’s tomb
I had mixed feelings about the monument to Thorpe in Penn. On one hand, the tribute, if a bit dated and weather-worn, was well done and seemed sincere. On the other hand, it was hard to get past the fact that Thorpe has become a road side attraction. Of all the turn-offs I’ve taken traveling, this one was as surreal as any.
Thorpe’s football statue at the turnout/monument
Upon receiving Thorpe’s body, the communities of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and were renamed Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. His tomb was built on a mound of dirt from his native Oklahoma and from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, where he earned international fame.
In 2010, son Jack Thorpe sued in Federal Court to have his father’s remains returned to Oklahoma. After several court rulings favoring both sides, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 refused to hear the case, effectively ending the suit and leaving Thorpe’s remains in Pennsylvania. Jack Thorpe died in 2011.
Hall of Fame radio broadcaster, Ray Christensen, passed away this week. He was the voice of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for 50 years.
Christensen, who served in Europe with the U.S. Army in WWII, graduated from Minnesota in 1949. He had started his radio career at KUOM in 1946. Two years after graduating, the University hired Christensen to call play-by-play for Gopher football. In 1963, Christensen joined WCCO Radio.
Ray Christensen would go on to call 510 Gopher football games and 1309 Gopher Men’s basketball games over his five decade career with Minnesota. He also called hockey games, golf, Minnesota Viking and Twins games over the course of his career. He retired in 2001, but returned for the first game in the new TCF Bank Stadium on campus in 2009.
During my visit to Minnesota, I attended the State’s High School All Star Football game at the new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
My cousin’s daughter was cheering for one of the squads, which allowed us all a wonderful reason to check out the new stadium. I attended many games at Met Stadium and the Metrodome in my youth, but this was my first time at US Bank. The place is huge, absolutely huge. The Metrodome could easily fit inside of US Bank.
First impression: A well designed football stadium, with a truly unique (for now) roof. The clear roof panels make you feel as if you are sitting outside, and I love the large, clear doors at the end of the building. Even though it was a nice day, the large doors were not open. What a great place to watch the Vikings beat Green Bay.
North played South in the game. I was with a group of North supporters, and we were sitting in the middle of a group of Elk River fans. Elk River won the state title this year. As it turns out, historic ties won out, and I cheered for the South team.
North scored first on a 7 yard touchdown pass from QB Jaran Roste of Alexandria to WR Michael Wandmaker of Andover.
The defensive game continued until the fourth quarter when South finally struck back. RB Christopher Bain of Grand Meadow scored on a 1 yard run, and OL Eric Wilson of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, lined up as fullback and converted the two-point attempt.
South would go on to win 15-7.