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November 04, 1999 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-04

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Thursday, November 4, 1999 - The Michigan Daily - 17A


early 25 years ago, an NHL super-
star by the name of Red Berenson
shared ice time with three young
p rs who went on to become stars in
their own right.
While playing for the St. Louis Blues,
Berenson mentored teammates Wayne
Merrick and the late Bob Gassoff, who all
played against Keith Magnuson's Chicago
At that time, Berenson couldn't have
imagined that near the end of the millen-
nium, he would be coaching the three
players' sons: Kevin Magnuson, Andrew
Mck and Bob Gassoff at Michigan.
few weeks ago, Bob's mom was
saying, 'Twenty years ago who would've
thought that our sons would be partners
(on the same shift) someday," Kevin
Magnuson said.
You could call it a twist of fate or you
could merely call it coincidence.
Regardless, the roads that brought the
three into the Michigan hockey world was
unique from those of their teammates -
yejmilar to each other. They were jour-
ne1'tn the spotlight.
For many young athletes, it is a lifelong
dream to meet their sport's superstars. A
football player may dream of the day he
could talk shop with Barry Sanders, while
a skier may imagine hitting the slopes
with Olympian Alberto Tomba.
But for many, it will always be just a
;en fewer attain the same status as
their heroes. For those who do, their lives
are no longer entirely their own. By con-
scious choice, they fall under the scrutiny
of the media's glare.
In most people's lifetimes, they will
never have to deal with the pressures that
come along with life under the spotlight.
And yet one wonders - what is it like?
Perhaps the best people to answer that
question are the sons of Magnuson,
M'ck and Gassoff, each of whom have
dealt with the celebrity status.
All three grew up playing hockey. But
unlike their teammates, they didn't have
to wait to meet their hockey heroes -
they grew up with them.
"When I was really young, every other
kid thought it was so much cooler than f
did," Magnuson said. "I really didn't
grasp that it was neat to have a profes-
sional athlete as a father. Kids would tell
m t must be so cool to have a dad like
lha . But to me he was just my dad."
Magnuson's father was a two-time All-
American at Denver before going on to
play 1l1 seasons with the Blackhawks. He

racked up 1,442 penalty minutes over his
career, a team record. The elder Magnuson
made an indelible mark on Chicago; today,
he still has numerous fans.
"When I was younger people would
stop him to get his autograph," Magnuson
said. "It still happens now and he's always
excited that people still remember him.
He gave 100 percent every night that he
was playing and everyone in the building
knew that. He was a lot of people's
favorite player."
So how did such a high profile athlete
maintain a normal household?
"Kevin caught the tail end of my
career," Keith Magnuson said after
Michigan's victory over Yale. "But we
always took the kids wherever we went.
We exposed them to everything.
"We'd go to games or autograph sign-
ings and they would see us interact with
people. It was good for them. They under-
stood what it was like to be a professional
athlete and to take time with people.
Today it's made them very outgoing. and
they handle it just like it was normal."
Andrew Merrick was old enough to
remember when his father's N.Y.
Islanders won four-consecutive Stanley
Cups - the only American NHL team
ever to accomplish this feat.
Every player on a championship team
gets to spend two days with The Cup.
Some take it fishing, others have had their
children baptized in it and it has even
made a trip to Russia.
For Andrew, the memories of spending
time with Lord Stanley's Trophy and with
that team will last a lifetime.
"I remember seeing my little sister sit-
ting right in The Cup," Merrick said. "She
was so cute. I also remember the whole
neighborhood came over. It was just nuts.
But it was so much fun."
He also recalls coming home from
kindergarten to find his father and a cou-
ple of f'ends camped out on the front
lawn with the cup.
"I remember I went to kindergarten at7
a.m. and I came back and they were still
on the front lawn in their folding lawn
chairs just having fun," Merrick said. "I
remember being embarrassed, because I
was only five years old and I was like,
'Come on dad, get in the house."'
Unlike Magnuson and Merrick,
Gassoffnever knew his father who died in
a motorcycle accident before he was born.
Still he grew up around hockey as he and
his mother remained close with the St.
Louis hockey cormmunity. Also, his uncle
Brad played for the Vancouver Canucks.
"I used to go down to the lockerrooms
after the games when I was young,"

Gassoff said. "I've gotten close to a lot of
the guys there like Brett Hull and Chris
Pronger. In the summer, I skate with them
too. They check up on me and make sure
I'm staying out of trouble. I'm very fortu-
nate to have that"
Though he doesn't have any memories
of his own, Gassoff's most cherished trea-
sures are the stories of his father.
"The only things I get to know about
my dad are stories that people tell"
Gassoff said. "That's all I have.
"I love stories, I live for stories about
my dad. There's nothing better I have or
could get from somebody. That's how I
formulate the image of my dad and get
close to him."
Perhaps what has truly brought all three
players close to their fathers is hockey -
the apparently genetic love for the game.
Not only did all three follow in their
father's footsteps, but Magnuson, Merick
and Gassoff turned out to be the same
kind of players their fathers were.
Magnuson and Gassoff both became
defensemen, positions their dads excelled
at. Merrick is a center, just like his dad
who centered the famed 'Banana' line
during the Islanders' magic run.
"There are some comparisons,"
Berenson said. "Merick is a great skater
--he skates just like his dad. It's amazing
how you can be born and end up skating
just like your dad. It's not like you copy it,
it just ends up that way"
Berenson said Gassoff bears the closest
resemblance to his father.
"Gassoff is just like his dad. His dad
was a tough, tough player, a real hard
nosed player," Berenson said. "He's the
kind of guy you want on your side if
you're walking down a back alley and
you're looking for trouble.
"His dad was the same way, he was an
enforcer, a real tough guy. Bobby's got
that in him. Even though he never met his
dad, he has that same spirit in him"
For Gassoff, that is one of the highest

compliments. He dreams of becoming
just like his father some day.
Around the CCHA Gassoff is consid-
ered to be one ofthe toughest players. But
the toughest guy takes time before each
game to say a short prayer to his father,
who he believes is with him in spirit.
Gassoff's locker is decorated with his
father's trading cards. Those cards travel
with him wherever he goes during an
important series, including the 1998
NCAA Tournament.
In a way, they represent Gassoff's
unique connection toa man he never met.
"He's not there, but inside I know he's
with me and he's watching over me,"
Gassoff said. "That's helped me along the
way and it keeps me honest with myself.
"It's really weird because there are sim-
ilarities in how we skate. After watching
him I was like, 'Oh my god,' and my
friends and my mom say that we look the
same out there. It's weird because I never
saw him play, he wasn't around me, but
that's just the way Iam. I play like him and
I never even knew him"
it may seem like growing up playing the
game your father played would puta lot of
stress on a player. But Magnuson, Merrick
and Gassoff are all proud of what their
fathers have achieved - and are hopeful
for what they may also do someday.
"He introduced me to hockey, but he
never pushed ne," Magnuson said of his
father. "He's the best about everything.
He understands how hard sometimes it is
to be in the spotlight, but he's been really
"I played just for the fun of it, It was
just a bonus that I had a dad who could tell
me what I was doing right or wrong. He
did that, but only because I asked him to.
That made me a better player."
Merrick said that he did actually feel
pressure, but it was a pressure that he wel-
comed knowing that hockey opened
many doors for him. His father, however,
was merely pleased that he was doing
what he enjoyed.
"I didn't put pressure on Andrew that

Twenty years later, Keith Magnuson's aggressive play lives on through his son, Kevin.

he had to be like me," Wayne Mertick
said. "I just wanted him to be happy."
To Gassoff, hockey is much more than
a game. It's a way of life and a connection
to his father Gassoff's father left a mark
on St. Louis much the same way
M;gnuson's father did on Chicago.
In fact, the Blues retired No. 3 so that
no player would ever wear it again.
"When I was little people would be
like, 'That's Bobby Gassoff, you remem-
ber big Bob Gassoff. He was really awe-
some. He was the toughest guy ever. He
was my favorite,"' Gassoff said. "My dad
left quite an impression on St. Louis and
the hockey community. To this day, peo-
ple still remember him.
"I'd love to play in the NHL and if I
ever got to play in a Blues uniform, that
would be the greatest thing ever."
All his life Gassoff had worn his
father's No. 3. Until he got to Michigan.
But this season, the graduation of Bubba
Berenzweig has enabled Gassoff to wear
the precious number again.
Magnuson, Merrick and Gassoff
repeatedly mention how much fun they
had growing up. The people they met and
the things they did were pretty unusual.
All three know some of hockey's
biggest stars and Magnuson's connections
extend beyond the ice rink.

"I caddied for Michael Jordan for 18
holes," Magnuson said. "I spent 4 hours
with him and it was one of the best days
of my life. I wasn't really star-struck, Ijust
tried to be as cool as I could but I was
fired up inside."
For Merrick the memories of the,
Islanders' practices stick out.
"You take those things for granted
when you're little," Merrick said. "But the
respect I have for those players now is
unbelievable. I got to be with them all the
time. It was a lot of fun. I'm very proud
of my dad and what he accomplished:"
For now, the formerNHL greats are the
cheerleaders watching the next generation
of players take over. For Keith Magnuson
that's unparalleled satisfaction.
"It's the ultimate for a father to have a
son who plays the same game and is
going the same path," Keith Magnuson
said. "Thirty years apart we both won
national championships. We did it in
Denver in 1968 and they did it here in
"That is the ultimate. Ifhe does nothing
else in hockey, I've been satisfied as a
father. We can both watch a game and talk
about hockey and both know exactly
what's going on. That's just the best of
being a father."
And that's the best of being a son.


Coime into Varsity
Forel on Friday,
Nembrter 5th or
Nove bet 6th aned
New Ford "2000'
FoCess and we'll give
feor yosr opnion
Hurry in to get one
of the 200 cards
1-94 EXIT #172, TURN L.EFT 9 6 2 0


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