Michigan Tech honors first national championship squad

The last time they officially wore the Black and Gold for Michigan Tech, they were celebrating the school’s first national title victory in any sport. Since that time, some of them have settled in the local area, some have worked for large corporations after finishing their degrees, and some have seen their children grow up to don the Huskies’ sweaters as well. One constant remains, they have nothing but fond memories of the school. This past weekend, Michigan Tech inducted the 1961-62 men’s ice hockey team into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. They become the first team ever to receive this prestigious honor.

All the surviving members of that great team which beat the Clarkson Golden Knights 50 years ago for the NCAA crown were on hand for all of the school’s festivities over the weekend, including getting to witness the current hockey Huskies’ victory over the Lake Superior State Lakers on Saturday night.

In an unprecedented move, the school invited all 17 remaining members to return to campus. Some, like Robert Mikesch, still live in the local area, but others like Don Hermanson, who has since worked for and retired from Boeing, traveled from as far away as Seattle.

“I am a local guy, from Hancock, so I do come back on a fairly frequent basis,” said Hermanson. “Usually we come in the summer time. This is the first time either of us have been back this late in the season. I love the place.”

Players trickled in as early as the Friday before the festivities, and from the moment they ran into each other, it was like they were back in the locker room, preparing for their next game.

“Most of them I haven’t seen in 50 years,” said Hermanson. “The first night we were in town, we went over to Gino’s, and here comes in (Phil) McVitte, (Louis) Angotti, (Mike) Draper, and (Albert) Merlo. We were bantering back and forth. It was fun. There was no ice to break, it was already broken.”

Some members of the team have run into each other as recently as two years ago during reunion activities, while others hadn’t been back since graduation.

Stories as well as memories were shared. Heard among the conversations included memories of their semi-final game, and how close the game actually was, despite the score. Others mentioned how happy they were that Michigan lost the other semi-final, as the Wolverines were the last team to beat the Huskies that season. Other stories included experiences during their playing careers.

“We all lived together in the barracks,” said Angotti. “Albert Merlo said that we were all joined at the hip because we lived together, we played hockey together, we went to school together. We were almost together like 24 hours a day.”

Some had forgotten the relative ease with which these Huskies dispatched the Golden Knights, 7-1, in the championship game.

The significance of having the whole group involved in this honor was not lost on the inductees.

“It’s very significant the fact that the Hall of Fame committee took the time out to recognize as a group,” said Angotti. “To go in as a group is very rewarding.”

Current head coach Mel Pearson made sure the visiting alumni were greeted with a personal touch. The school had replica jerseys made up for each of the alumni and Pearson had current players present each alumnus with their jersey individually. The current players then shared conversations with the alumni.

Joining Hermanson, Angotti, McVittie, Merlo, Draper, and Mikesch for the reunion were team captain Gerald Sullivan, Pat Casey, Gary Begg. Bob Pallante, Barry Johnson, John Ivanitz, Allan Patterson, Scott Watson, Norman Wimmer, Gene Rebellato, Gary MacLellan, manager Tom Bliss, and assistant coach Bill Lucier.

Sullivan dropped the ceremonial faceoff before Saturday’s contest. The current Huskies earned a victory to help celebrate the reunion in the best way they knew how.

Daver Karnosky

Daver has been around Michigan Tech hockey since his family moved to Houghton in 1983. A 2007 graduate of Michigan Tech who completed his Master's Degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication in 2010, he has covered the Huskies as an arena reporter for USCHO.com for the last eight seasons. Daver has also covered Huskies' games for outlets such as the Daily Mining Gazette, Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Cloud Times, and the Michigan Tech Lode.