October 06, 2014

Mayor Mike Antonovich

Oh my. That is quite the hockey card! And that is quite the hairdo!

That is Mike Antonovich and that is his 1974-75 WHA O-Pee-Chee hockey card. Antonovich was a tiny player, listed as small as 5'6" and 155lbs. But he must have had 10lbs of hair!

Antonovich lived and breathed Minnesota hockey. He was born in Calumet and was a high school hockey star with Greenway in Coleraine (while wearing glasses!). High school hockey stars in Minnesota are often as big a deal as NHL stars, and he one of his greatest hockey highlights was winning the state high school championship in 1967 and 1968. In 2011 he was named as the 6th greatest high school hockey player of all time by the Minnesota Tribune.

But that was just the beginning. He went on to the University of Minnesota - the dream of so many Minnesota hockey kids.  In 1971 he memorably scored the winning goal late in the third period against arch-rival Wisconsin. Unfortunately Minnesota would drop the NCAA championship game to Boston University.

Drafted by both the Minnesota North Stars (NHL) and Minnesota Fighting Saints (WHA), Antonovich opted to leave university after his junior year. One reason to leave early was the contract offers were still strong despite a season ruined due to injury. He had to have season ending surgery to repair his right knee. To make matters worse, his left leg suffered third degree burns while making popcorn on Christmas day!

Antonovich chose the WHA Fighting Saints. For the next five seasons he was a 20 goal scorer in the WHA. You may have heard of his first set of regular linemates - Dave Keon and John "Pie" MacKenzie!

Antonovich playing briefly with the North Stars in 1975-76 before returning to the WHA. He briefly played with the Edmonton Oilers before joining the New England Whalers.

In 1979-80 Antonovich remained with the Whalers as they joined the NHL following the collapse of the WHA, though he would only get into 5 games. He actually left the league and played in Switzerland before returning hoping to find more success in the NHL. He had a second brief stint with the North Stars before spending parts of two seasons with the New Jersey Devils.

Antonovich retired in 1984, though he did reappear in 1995-96 to play 2 games with his son with Quad City of the Colonial Hockey League. He has served as a long time amateur scout for the St. Louis Blues and also took the job of Mayor of Coleraine, Minnesota.

Here's a video of the Minnesota Fighting Saints. Note the boards - there are none! The had glass all the way down to the ice!

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