It took 50 years, but Rossland native Al Holm and his Michigan Tech Huskies’ 1964-65 NCAA Div. 1 championship hockey team have found their rightful place in the Michigan Tech University (MTU) Sports Hall of Fame.
The team was inducted last month at a gala at the MTU Hall of Fame in Houghton, Mich. and each player awarded with a commemorative team plaque, a copy of the ‘65 NCAA plaque, and a replica of their original Huskies hockey jersey from the championship team.
“It was quite an honour, because it’s 50 years since we won the NCAA, and I was captain of the team so it was a special moment for me,” said Holm who travelled to the event with his son Brent. “It was awesome playing there, but also to get an education out of it too.”
In his senior year, Holm led the Michigan Tech Huskies to the NCAA final four, beating Brown 4-0 in the semi-final and Boston College 8-2 in the final to capture Michigan Tech’s second national championship in four years.
Holm was born and raised in Rossland, playing his minor hockey in the Golden City, and was captain of the first Rossland-Trail Junior team to win a provincial championship, the year prior to his leaving for UMT.
Despite some professional offers, Holm refused to sign anything that would jeopardize his amateur status, and following in the skates of Nelson’s John Kosiancic, he eventually secured a scholarship to play hockey and study mathematics at UMT.
“They didn’t scout,” said Holm. “It mainly went through word of mouth. A local fellow told (UMT coach) John MacInnes about me, and MacInnes took a flyer on me, so that’s how I got down there.”
Holm was there for the first championship, but played on the Freshman squad with a young Pat Quinn. At the time, first year players were ineligible to play for the varsity team.
In the Huskies ‘65 run to the NCAA championship, Holm netted a pair of hat tricks to lift the Huskies over the Minnesota University Gophers in a two-game series, and advance to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) final against Dennis Hextall and first-place North Dakota, their biggest obstacle.
NDU led the WCHA standings by a half-game on the 24-5-2 Huskies. Holm was one of only two seniors on the Huskies, so the young MTU squad was decided underdogs. But for all their youth, led by the line of Holm, Gary Milroy, and Wayne Weller, the Huskies would triumph over the Fighting Sioux 6-4, with Holm netting two goals, including the winner that broke a 4-4 tie midway through the third period.
An excerpt from Houghton’s Daily Mining Gazette records Holm’s winning effort:
“Holm looked Lech (NDU goalie) right in the eye, gave him a fancy head and shoulder fake, Lech went down like a sack of North Dakota potatoes, and Al flipped an easy score into the upper right corner of the net to give the Huskies a lead they never gave up.”
MTU travelled to Providence for the 18th NCAA championship, beating Brown 4-0 with goalie Rick Best recording the first shutout in the history of the championship. Despite the shutout, coach MacInnes went with Tony Esposito in goal in the final against Boston College, a controversial move among the Eastern sports writers but one that would pay off.
“MacInnes that year, he alternated goalies, Rick Best and Esposito, so we started Best against Brown . . . The eastern sports writers were asking who was going to start the next night, and of course it’s going to be Esposito, and they said, ‘how can MacInnes do this?’,” explained Holm. “We went Tony, and the next night we won 8-2.”
Holm returned to Trail after graduation, and worked at Cominco as a data processor for over 30 years until his retirement. He lives in Glenmerry with his wife Eileen and have two children, Michelle and Brent.
Michigan Tech would make it back to the title for three straight years, winning its third championship in 1975, but would lose to Herb Brooks and the Minnesota Gophers in ‘74 and ‘76.