This story was written by freelance writer Joe Tougas, who will write a series of stories related to Campaign Gustavus this year.
You may not be able to bottle the spirit, the history, and the great stories that have been part of Gustavus hockey, but you can house the program so it all continues.
The Lund Arena Initiative is a $500,000 plan to repair, renovate, and rejuvenate Lund Arena, which is home to the hockey rink named after the program’s legendary coach, Donny Roberts ’56.
In the 1960s, Roberts agreed to coach the new team despite having no experience in the game. He retired in 1997 as the winningest coach in Division III hockey history.
The Lund Arena Initiative has thus far brought in more than $190,000, which has bought new netting, bleachers, stadium graphics, a video editing system and, most importantly, new boards and glass systems that address industry concerns about player head injuries.
“We are pleased to have the safest system on the market for our athletes,” said Gustavus men’s hockey coach Brett Petersen.
Charles Kelley of Minneapolis, a donor to the initiative, played left wing on the team for four years in the early 70s and went to national championship finals twice. He attributed Roberts’s success to being a sharp recruiter who learned about the game from the students he brought into the program. Rather than dictate, Roberts would talk with players, watch other teams practice, and remain open to learning more.
“That’s what was amazing about it, he was willing to do that—to learn,” Kelley said. “Coach Roberts was a football player. He didn’t know how to skate. But he was willing to try it.”
A Gustavus grad who went on to coach Marines in football at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Roberts returned to the College and was teaching physical education while coaching football and basketball when he accepted the position as head coach of the resurrected hockey team in 1964.
Now retired, he attributes his early success to a different sport.
“It was just like coaching basketball,” Roberts recalled. “You’ve got five guys out there – two guards, three forwards. And I would put basketball plays in, because that’s all I knew. The guys thought I was a genius. I didn’t know squat.”
Kelley, who more than 20 years ago started his own financial management company that continues today in Minneapolis, said Roberts and Gustavus athletics have produced enthusiastic, thoughtful, and successful leaders.
“A lot of it is self-esteem, that you think you can do it and you go try to do it,” Kelley said. “The harder you work, the more things bounce your way. That’s what Donny told us in front of the hockey net.”
Much remains to be done at the arena, Petersen said, including replacing a decaying sound system. And he agrees that contributions to Gustavus athletics have an impact well beyond the campus.
“The whole idea of the student athlete here at Gustavus gets played out so well,” Petersen said. “The key component is the team aspect and the leadership qualities that are learned on a daily basis. From time to time you run into some adversity along the way, and how you handle that adversity, that’s where your true character shows.”
Campaign Gustavus is the College’s $150 million comprehensive fundraising campaign that will help transform the recommendations of Commission Gustavus 150 into reality. Your gift to athletics supports the campaign pillar of Teaching and Learning and provides resources for our student athletes. Give today.
Media Contact: Vice President for Marketing and Communication Tim Kennedy