Now that another Great Lakes Invitational Tournament is in the record books, The Old Dog thought it might be worthwhile to look back and tell you about my favorite GLI. It happened in 1974.
1974 was a big year in my life. I was honorably discharged from the Army in May. In August, Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency. In September, I enrolled at Wayne State to study engineering, and soon after I found a job as an engineering assistant in a diamond tool factory in Detroit. I bought the first halfway decent car I ever owned, a 1969 Mercury Cougar. It broke down from time to time, and was stolen once (from the parking lot at the factory) although it was recovered, albeit with some serious vandalism done to it.
With my tuition paid by the GI bill and with Mrs. Dog working as an accountant, we had enough money to do things that we had never been able to do before. And one of those things was to buy tickets for the GLI.
I’d been to one GLI before, in 1969. I’d met a guy from Ferris State who was a big hockey fan, and he called me and asked me if I wanted to go because the Huskies were playing. I think I must have gone to the consolation game that Tech won over Princeton, 5-2. I say that because the Huskies got bombed by New Hampshire in the first round by a score of 7-0, and, senile as I might be these days, I think I would have remembered that kind of a beating.
The Huskies were locked and loaded as the ’74-75 season started. They had lost in the finals of the NCAA to WCHA foe Minnesota the previous season—it was the first of three straight finals games that pitted John MacInnes against Herb Brooks. They would avenge that loss at the end of the season when they whacked the Gophers 6-1 in St. Louis to win their third NCAA championship.
They had a boatload of talent on that team. Senior Bob D’Alvise was a first team All American and played a year in the WHA. In that golden season, D’Alvise was third in the nation in scoring, totaling 37 goals and 84 points. He trailed only Ron Wilson of Providence (yes, that Ron Wilson) and Michigan State legend Tom Ross in the scoring race.
Mike Zuke was a junior and was All WCHA—and after graduating, tacked on 2 years in the WHA followed by 8 years in the NHL, where he played 455 games and scored 86 goals and 282 points.
They had still more talent upfront. George Lyle played three years in the WHA and then went on to five years in the NHL. Steve Jensen enjoyed a seven year career in the NHL, ending up with 438 games played, 113 goals scored and 220 points. He also played in 81 international games over his career, scoring 56 goals and 101 points in those contests. Billy Steele, who may have been the best penalty killer I’ve ever seen in college hockey, also had a two year stint in the WHA.
In a shoot-first-and-back-check-later era, Tech’s blueline was anchored by Bob Lorimer. Lorimer had one of the best professional careers of any Husky, playing 529 games over 9 years in NHL. He scored 22 goals and 112 points in that time, and his name is on two Stanley Cups with great New York Islander teams of the early 80’s.
Stu Ostlund, Stu Younger, Dana Decker and Bruce Abbey all logged some pro hockey after leaving Tech’s program. In goal, they had Bruce Horsch and Jim Warden—who won the MVP award in the NCAA finals later that year and was featured in a Sports Illustrated spread (Google “Sun Child in the Icy Nets” and you’ll find the story in the SI archives). Both Horsch and Warden played a couple of years in minor pro hockey, too.
Whether this was Tech’s best team ever is a hard question to answer. Lou Angotti’s ’62 squad and Tony Esposito’s ’65 team were both great, too, but the game played in the mid-70’s was so different it’s not easy to make a direct comparison. But I don’t think there’s any question that the 74-75 team put more players into the pro ranks and played more games at the NHL level than any team in the Huskies’ history.
In 1974, the GLI was still being played at the Olympia, an absolutely great place to watch hockey. Besides the main bowl, there was a mezzanine level and a balcony. Although the balcony was fairly high up, it hung over the main bowl and looked right down onto the ice, giving you a much better view than you get from the nosebleed seats in any modern arena.
And the mezzanine—wow, what a place to view the ice surface. Like the balcony, it hung over the main bowl but was suspended from the balcony. It was fairly small and the sight lines were fantastic. Mrs. Dog and I splurged for tickets in the mezzanine, and we went on to sit there for the rest of the GLI’s through 1979, when Joe Louis Arena replaced Olympia for the the 1980 tournament.
The Huskies didn’t come into the tournament on a high note, though. They’d been swept by their nemesis Minnesota in the Twin Cities on the weekend before the Christmas.
On Friday night, however, Tech came out strong and whipped Yale 7-3 and the game was never in doubt. In the second game, Michigan, under second year head coach Dan Farrell, edged a very good Harvard team 3-2. All in all, it wasn’t a good night for the ECAC.
On Saturday, Michigan scored first, and added a second goal to take a 2-0 lead into the third period. While I was having a great time at the game, catching up with a lot of my friends from my undergraduate years after my Army term, there wasn’t much to cheer about. With only five minutes left, Tech still trailed 2-0. You started to wonder if Farrell knew how to get the best of MacInnes, having played for him and then serving as MacInnes’ assistant for four years.
I don’t really remember the details of what happened next. It was so fast it was a blur, but the Huskies scored three goals in the final five minutes, two of them from Mike Zuke, and they had won their fourth GLI title in the first ten years of the event. And all of the Tech fans, who filled the mezzanine and a good part of the rest of the arena, went absolutely bonkers.
I was totally and completely hooked at that point. Mrs. Dog and I then attended both nights of the GLI for the next thirty five years. Our streak was only broken when we moved to Texas in the spring of 2010. Starting in 1976, we hosted a party at our home in Livonia for our friends from Tech that started after the first night games were over. These parties went on until 4 or 5 in the morning and soon attracted many people we didn’t know. We continued that until the late 1990’s, when we felt we had to stop because so many minors were showing up with alcohol—and then drinking altogether too much of whatever they brought. I started to worry that I’d end up in prison if one of these “young bucks” drove home drunk and had a bad accident.
Since moving to Texas, we’ve managed to catch nearly every game on some form of telecast.
We’re hoping to see many more in the coming years. But the 1974 game will always be special.