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FROZEN FOUR: After health scare in 2011, Hennessy thankful to be back at Frozen Four

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PHILADELPHIA – Tim Hennessy vividly remembers UND’s last trip to the Frozen Four.

That’s because the longtime radio play-by-play broadcaster was in a Grand Forks hospital having emergency surgery to clear a blockage in his Carotid artery.

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“I went to the eye doctor for a regular appointment on that Monday before the Frozen Four,” Hennessy said. “He did his tests. I had my kid there with me and he said to call him to the lobby to watch TV. I thought, ‘We’ve got a big problem.’”

Dr. Jeffery Yunker recognized telltale signs of blockage from his eye tests and immediately called Hennessy’s doctor. A couple of days later, as UND played Michigan in the Frozen Four semifinals in St. Paul, Hennessy had his surgery.

He vaguely remembered watching some of the game in the recovery room. UND lost 2-0.

Hennessy said it was tough to miss the game, but he was thankful that the doctor caught the problem before he had a stroke.

 “The eye doc saved my life,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy stood on the bench during UND’s practice Wednesday afternoon with a smile, thankful to be at this Frozen Four. He estimates it’s No. 14 or No. 15 in his career. He first started broadcasting UND hockey games in 1977-78.

“You know how much fun this is?” Hennessy said. “There’s a different atmosphere here than any other road trip. Everybody is upbeat. This is the big kahuna for college hockey.

“I’m grateful to be here. Let’s put it that way.”

Players remember Gambucci

UND players and coaches expressed their sadness Wednesday in learning of the death of legendary Grand Forks Central hockey coach Serge Gambucci, who passed away Tuesday night.

 “I heard the news last night,” said UND freshman forward Luke Johnson, who played for Central. “That was pretty sad to hear. He was such an inspiration to young kids in Grand Forks. He had a huge impact on my dad (former Knight Steve Johnson). He had a huge influence on Grand Forks hockey and North Dakota hockey. It’s just sad news all around.”

Johnson’s cousin, UND freshman Paul LaDue, also expressed his sadness. LaDue helped the Knights win the Gambucci Cup as a junior in high school. The award, named after the legendary coach, goes to the best prep team in intra-city games.

“We won it my junior year and we got the award from him,” LaDue said. “That was pretty special. He was great. Grand Forks hockey wouldn’t be what it is today without him. My prayers go out to his family.”

UND coach Dave Hakstol told stories and memories of Gambucci.

 “What really hits home to me is what kind of person he was to each individual he ever met,” said Hakstol, who also said that Gambucci’s annual personalized Christmas card was a big highlight each year. “I have great memories of him, fun memories of him. But I was always just so impressed with the number of lives he touched.”

Old faces

Two familiar faces showed up at practice Wednesday.

Former UND captain Chay Genoway and his old teammate, Brett Bruneteau, watched practice and visited with the coaches and players after it ended.

Genoway is playing for the Hershey (Pa.) Bears and made the two-hour drive to come to the Wells Fargo Center. Bruneteau currently works for the Philadelphia Flyers in the marketing department.

 “It was great to see them,” Hakstol said. “They are two guys who had two different career paths in our organization. It was great to see Brett’s face. He’s working with the Flyers and doing well. Chay’s still pushing to become an NHL player and push his pro career. He’s fighting for a playoff spot right now. To take time to drive a few hours here on his afternoon off is pretty special.”

Parks a highlight

UND junior forward Michael Parks won the team’s weekly shootout competition at the end of practice Wednesday.

That’s not the only attention he received.

Parks is one of two Philadelphia Flyers draft picks in the Frozen Four and local journalists were interested in his story.

 “Michael’s had a great week of practice,” Hakstol said. “He’s been really relaxed. He’s been executing really well. I think there Is no question there is a little extra excitement for him as he steps on the ice in this building for practice today.

 “But, again, I’m sure Michael will do a good job of keeping everything in perspective and getting his focus on the most important things for game day. That’s all part of maturing as a player and he’ll do a good job of that.”

Notes and quotes

  • Minnesota coach Don Lucia was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1978.
  • ESPN’s John Buccigross will call the game on play-by-play. Buccigross said: “Before I was hired by ESPN, I worked in Providence, R.I. I was first exposed to the Frozen Four there in 1995. Maine, Minnesota, Michigan and Boston University were there. A terrific Frozen Four. It left an indelible mark on me. I was raised on hockey since birth, but this was a new canvas I hadn’t experienced before. I knew I would be part of it again. Here I am.”
  • ESPN’s Barry Melrose will serve as the color commentator. Melrose hired UND assistant coach Dane Jackson for a head coaching job in the minor leagues before Jackson joined UND.
  • Hakstol: “Everything since we’ve been on the ground here in Philadelphia has been tremendous. The reception, the organization, not just in and around the town but in the city, here at the arena. . . it’s really evident that a lot of time and effort continues to go into this great event and we’re excited to be here.”

Our team covers your team

The Herald plans exclusive print-only coverage of UND’s national championship hopes starting today.

In print copies of the newspaper, loyal Herald readers will find a 16-page collector’s edition chronicling the team. Additionally, some stories by the Herald’s award-winning sports staff will be available only in the newspaper.

Fresh, exclusive online content — including video and additional photos — will be posted daily to www.grandforksherald.com.

For comprehensive Frozen Four coverage, pick up the Herald each day and visit online for stories, photos and multimedia by our team of four staff members.

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Brad Elliott Schlossman
Schlossman is in his 10th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2014, he was named one of the top three beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.
(701) 780-1129
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