Long-time Grand Forks coach Serge Gambucci dies at 91
The Sergio Gambucci Arena was dedicated in November, 2004. The ice hockey facility is attached to Purpur Arena, which is named after another local hockey legend, Cliff “Fido” Purpur.
“I don’t know what can be bigger than this,’’ Gambucci said when Gambucci Arena was dedicated. “To have your name on a building is unbelievable. Unless someone takes it down, that building will be there forever.’’
And so will the legacy of Gambucci, one of the foundations of Grand Forks’ dominant high school programs. Gambucci died Tuesday at Altru Hospital. He was 91.
“Dad suffered a stroke last Thursday morning,’’ his son, John Gambucci, said Tuesday night. “He died peacefully about 7 p.m. tonight with his family around him.’’
It was Gambucci who coached Grand Forks Central teams that won the first 10 North Dakota boy state high school hockey tournaments. That streak started in 1961. He retired after the 1970 season, which concluded with an 11-0 win against Fargo North in the state championship, a game in which Dennis Johnson set a championship-game record with six goals that still stands.
Gambucci’s Central teams won 258 and lost only 38 in his 15 seasons as hockey coach. He was 10-0 in state hockey championship games.
“Hockey was dad’s life,’’ John Gambucci said. “Family and hockey.’’
Gambucci was a charter member of the North Dakota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He also was a charter member of the Grand Forks Central Athletic Hall of Fame and the Grand Forks Foundation of Public School Teachers Hall of Fame.
In addition, he was selected to the St. Cloud State University Athletic Hall of Fame and, in 1996, was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
The national hall of fame is located in Gambucci’s native Eveleth, Minn. After graduating from high school in Eveleth, Gambucci served in the military during Work War II. Following military service, he attended St. Cloud Teachers College (now St. Cloud State University), where he captained the hockey team and was its leading scorer for two years.
After college, Gambucci played amateur hockey. In 1951, he was leading scorer and player-coach for the Crookston Pirates, which was U.S. national amateur champion. Gambucci began his teaching and coaching career at Crookston Cathedral before moving to Grand Forks Central. He retired from teaching after the 1987-88 school year.
Gambucci also was a very successful tennis coach. His Central teams won three state dual championships and he had 11 individual state champs. All seven of his children won state titles in tennis.
Gambucci’s name also lives on in local hockey not only with a building but with an intercity championship. The Gambucci Cup is the traveling trophy that goes to the local high school that wins the yearly intercity championship.