Legendary college hockey coach Bob Peters dies at age 84
Peters coached Bemidji State from 1966-2011, leading the Beavers from Division III to Division II to Division I. Only five college hockey coaches have ever won more games.
Robert H. 'Bob' Peters, one of college hockey's all-time winningest coaches and the key architect of Bemidji State's program, has died at age 84.
Peters was one of the sport's most impactful figures — on and off the ice.
He's the only coach to lead teams to the final four at the NAIA, NCAA Division III, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division I levels. He was the first to win 700 games at a single institution. He later became an athletic director who helped bring women's hockey to Bemidji State, as well as the commissioner of a college hockey conference, the CHA.
Peters helped start three different college hockey leagues — the ICHA, the NCHA and CHA — while he brought the Beavers' hockey program from one that played outdoors at the NAIA level to a national championship-winning squad at the Division II and III levels to one that competed with college hockey's most historic and prominent institutions in Division I.
To this day, only five college hockey coaches have won more all-time games than Peters' 744 — Jerry York, Ron Mason, Jack Parker, Red Berenson and Rick Comley.
"To me, if he's not the best, he's one of the best in the history of the game," said Jim Scanlan, who was named one of Bemidji State's 50 greatest players and currently serves as the women's hockey coach. "I was a goalie, obviously, and that was the first time all of the practices were designed with the goalie in mind. It wasn't like you were a target. You never saw something in a game that you didn't already see in practice. He was meticulous and organized. He loved history and that was a big part of who he was."
Bemidji State's rink in the Sanford Center is named after Peters. His name is painted on the ice there. He's a member of Hall of Fames at both UND and Bemidji State.
Peters' affiliation with college hockey began in 1957, when he came from Fort Frances, Ont., to play goalie for UND. During his one season, UND reached the NCAA national championship game.
After coaching East Grand Forks Senior High for one season in 1960-61, he returned to UND to serve as an assistant coach under Barry Thorndycraft. He won an NCAA national championship in 1963 as an assistant and became head coach from 1964-66, leading UND to a Frozen Four as a 28-year-old.
In 1966, Bemidji State hired Peters away from UND, starting a remarkable 34-year run at the school.
Peters won 13 national championships, 15 conference titles and set an NCAA record in 1983-85 by winning 42 consecutive games. Peters won coach of the year honors in the NAIA, NCHA and WCHA.
"Bob Peters was a pioneer and an ambassador for the game of hockey," said Tom Serratore, who took over as Bemidji State's men's coach in 2001 for Peters. "Hockey always came first for him. The sport and the growth of the game came first. That's how he viewed things. He was a true ambassador, a gentleman and loved the game of hockey. It was important for him to see the game grow."
Peters, who lived in Bemidji with his wife Lou and had two children, Steve and Barb, was inducted into UND's Hall of Fame in 2003 and Bemidji State's in 2007.
His impact transcended wins and losses.
"He was the second-most influential man in my life behind my dad," Scanlan said. "I wouldn't be in this job today if not for him. I'm probably not in coaching and I'm definitely not at Bemidji State. He had a tremendous impact on my life, for sure."