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UND hockey pioneer, Olympic silver medalist Dan McKinnon dies

Dan McKinnon drove from Warroad, Minn., to Grand Forks with Cal Marvin in the mid-1940s with the goal of convincing UND athletic director Glenn ‘Red’ Jarrett to add men’s hockey as a sport.

Jarrett told them: “If you can get me a team, I’ll get you a schedule.”

And so was the beginning of the UND men’s hockey program.

McKinnon, who later starred on the team, helped UND to a stunning win over powerhouse Michigan in its second year of existence, became the program’s first All-American and won an Olympic silver medal in 1956, died Sunday night at the age of 90.

McKinnon had been in-and-out of the hospital since sustaining injuries in a Memorial Day crash as he and other American Legion members were on their way to honor fallen soldiers in Roseau County.

McKinnon was in the Navy and a World War II veteran, who was stationed in Guam.

“He was a genuine man,” McKinnon’s son, Tim, said. “He was a great dad, a great husband, a great granddad and just a great man. He was just a genuine person and I’m so lucky to have him as a father and a mentor. There’ll never be another one.”

McKinnon had three children -- Tim, Kellie and Robert -- and had been married to his wife, Elouise, for 51 years.

“He was a man of his word,” Tim said. “He told you what he thought. He said it as it is and people respected him for that. He carried that through his whole life. He told people the way he saw things and he had that vision to see things and to carry it through.”

McKinnon, who was born 20 miles southeast of Warroad, Minn., in the town of Williams, helped bring the sport of hockey to UND. He also was part of UND’s 6-5 upset of Michigan on Jan., 9, 1948, helping launch the program to prominence.

The program has since gone on to produce 27 Olympians, 97 NHL players and win eight NCAA national championships, the most recent a year ago.

“I think we can’t thank enough people like Marvin, McKinnon, Ginny Christian, John Noah and others of that era for this great gift they brought to us in the late 40s, one that that keeps on giving,” longtime Herald scribe Virg Foss wrote in a column three years ago.

Christian died two months ago and Noah died in 2015. Marvin died in 2004.

McKinnon is a member of UND’s Athletics Hall of Fame and was named one of the program’s legends, earning a plaque on the wall in the entryway of Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Those close to McKinnon say he was proud of his association with UND hockey, the Warroad Lakers hockey team, the Warroad Muskies baseball team, his military service and his involvement with St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“He would always give you the shirt off of his back,” Tim said. “He would always lend you a helping hand. He was the first one to show up and the last one to leave.”

McKinnon played professionally in San Bernardino, Calif., with a couple of his UND friends -- Christian and Ralph Engelstad.

McKinnon was forced to retire from hockey after a hunting accident in 1959. He then went on to work for Marvin Windows in Warroad.

After the Memorial Day accident, McKinnon made it his goal to get out of the hospital and get back to the chair on his porch -- his favorite spot. He was able to get back there for a few days before returning to the hospital because of complications.

“When he set a goal, he did whatever he needed to reach that goal,” Tim said. “I’ve never seen someone work so hard to get back home. And he did it. He got back home. He was a fighter until the end.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer 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.

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