July 31, 2016

Dave Debol

Dave Debol was a proud Michigander through and through.

Born in St. Clair Shores, Dave grew up loving hockey. But like a lot of American kids in the early 1970s - especially in rural areas outside of Minnesota - there was not a lot of opportunity for a kid like Debol to advance.

Unless that kid refused to let the dream die. And that's exactly what Debol did.

Debol, who was a member of the National Honor Society in high school, enrolled at the University of Michigan. He was not there specifically to play hockey but rather to study nursing. The University hockey team never recruited him, but did allow him to attend training camp. Somehow Debol made the team as an unlikely walk-on player.

The walk-on player no one had known about went on to become of the greatest players in University of Michigan hockey history. He was an exciting scoring sensation who was quickly dubbed "the Guy Lafleur of college hockey" and, at that time, the second best player in U of M history behind Red Berenson.

Debol could score at will. In his third season he broke Berenson's school record for goals with 43. That included a NCAA hat trick record of three goals in 59 seconds in one game vs. rival Michigan Tech. That year he also establishing school records with 56 assists and 99 points.

Debol powered the Wolverines to one Final Four showdown but they lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Wisconsin that year. Otherwise it was a fantastic collegiate career that would later see him inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame.

Though he was drafted by the Chicago Black Hawks with the 63rd overall pick in 1976, Debol opted to turn pro with the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association in 1978. He was just starting to get comfortable with the big adjustment to the pro game when he was struck in the high with the blade of a hockey stick in a game against Winnipeg. His season was over and for a while his career was in jeopardy, but surgery to reattach the retina in his left eye a month later save both his eye and his job.

 The WHA collapsed in 1979 and four of the remaining teams joined the NHL. Debol found his playing rights were now part of the Hartford Whalers, where he would play 92 games over the next two NHL seasons. He scored a respectable 26 goals and 26 assists in that time.

One of the real highlights of his NHL career was hat trick performance against the Red Wings in Detroit in 1981 and of course getting the chance to play with his idol Gordie Howe for a stretch. 

Debol began a vagabond tour of the minor leagues in 1982, which he did not enjoy much. In 1983-84 he tried one more season of hockey by playing overseas in Switzerland. Debol enjoyed the international game as he represented the United States at three World Championships.

Dave retired and returned to Michigan after that season. He has coached at the high school and collegiate levels while also operating his own hockey schools and skill development camps.

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