Noah makes room in spotlight
For 55 years, Crookston native John Noah has basked in the glory of being the first All-America hockey player at UND. It is a nice trivia fact, not to mention a tremendous honor, considering it came long before the program grew into the national ...
For 55 years, Crookston native John Noah has basked in the glory of being the first All-America hockey player at UND.
It is a nice trivia fact, not to mention a tremendous honor, considering it came long before the program grew into the national powerhouse it is today.
The problem comes in that it is not true.
This fall, UND officially recognized Dan McKinnon (Williams, Minn.) and Russel "Buzz" Johnson (Webster, S.D.) as the first All-America players from UND.
McKinnon and Johnson are listed as second team All-America selections for the 1949-50 season, when 12 players were chosen throughout the country and divided into first and second teams.
A year later, Noah was named to the single 12-player All-America team following the 1950-51 season.
Now UND has officially recognized McKinnon and Johnson as the school's first All-America players, listing them as such in this year's hockey media guide.
"It's a strange thing, because maybe 50 years ago, I heard about it second hand, when someone told me I was named to the second team," McKinnon said. "It was not such a big damn deal. I never tried to confirm it."
According to McKinnon, the honor grew some legs in 1957-58 when McKinnon played on the U.S. national team. Warroad's Cal Marvin, who had played at UND with McKinnon and coached the national team, listed McKinnon's All-America honor in the biography he prepared for each player.
"That was the first time I saw it in black and white," McKinnon said.
But that fact slipped into a dark hole somewhere again.
The problem stems from the fact that the American Hockey Coaches Association didn't take over the official role of compiling the formal vote of coaches until 1958. Before then, the ACHA says that team managers and media loosely named their own teams, creating a murky situation at best.
But now the AHCA, on its Web site, officially recognizes McKinnon and Johnson as second team All-America selections in 1949-50. "Buzz Johnson was the best player I ever played with," McKinnon said.
That the AHCA lists McKinnon and Johnson on its 1949-50 team was good enough for UND athletic media relations director Dan Benson. For the first time, he included McKinnon and Johnson in this year's media guide listing of Sioux All-America players, bumping Noah out of his unique designation.
"He's had bragging rights for 50 years," laughed McKinnon, when asked about Noah's long run as the school's first hockey All-American.
There have been reports of Warroad's Gordon "Ginny" Christian and the late Jimmy Medved, who played with Noah, McKinnon, Marvin, Johnson and others in the formative years of Sioux hockey, being All-America selections as well.
At the UND Athletic Hall of Fame banquet recently, McKinnon and Christian were both presented with framed certificates by UND as "All-America honorees."
Since the AHCA officially lists just McKinnon and Johnson as All-Americans in 1949-50, that's the information Benson is going by in compiling his All-America roll call of Sioux players for the media guide. Benson said he'll stay with that listing unless new information surfaces.
McKinnon, Johnson, Christian, Noah, Medved and Marvin had all previously been inducted into UND's Athletic Hall of Fame. Noah is the first Sioux player to compete for the U.S. in the Winter Olympics (1952). Christian and McKinon played in the 1956 Olympics.
Now, some 56 years since he last laced on his skates for UND and pulled on a school jersey, All-America honors have officially come to McKinnon as well.
"Well certainly, it's wonderful for my family," McKinnon said, "and for me."
Foss, who retired as a full-time sportswriter for the Grand Forks Herald a year ago, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (701) 772-9272.