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Remembering Wooger

12/24/2019, 11:00am CST
By Bryan Zollman

Former players and colleagues reflect on the passing of one of Minnesota's finest

Woog is known most for his coaching at the University of Minnesota, but he was also an outstanding player at South St. Paul High School and as a Gopher where he achieved All-American status. (Photos Courtesy of University of Minnesota)

The Minnesota hockey community lost not just a great hockey player, coach and ambassador of the game, they lost a truly great person when Doug Woog passed away Saturday, Dec. 14 at age 75.

Woog coached the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for 14 years, but he was more than just a coach. Woog was a great hockey player, appearing in four Minnesota state high school hockey tournaments for South St. Paul before going on to an All-American career at the University of Minnesota.

"Wooger", as he was known, eventually found himself in the broadcast booth. Fittingly, the arena in his hometown bears his name and will be a lasting legacy to a man who has not only done so much for the game itself, but for those who have played it.

Let's Play Hockey reached out to former players and colleagues. Here is what they had to say about our beloved "Wooger."


Ben Hankinson (former player)

"Doug Woog was Gopher Hockey to me. I was lucky to get the chance to watch my brother Peter play as a freshman for the Gophers my senior year in high school. Peter was a great player and student so he set the table for me to get a chance to be a Gopher. 

At the end of my senior season, Coach Woog brought me into the Gopher basketball locker room and offered me a half scholarship and chance to be a Gopher. I couldn't say yes fast enough, and I owe Doug Woog everything for giving me a head start on life. It was a relationship with Wooger that never ended after playing four years for him. Wooger was not only a great coach but a wonderful role model and friend through the years.


Funny Story 

I came back to the dorms my freshman year after class on a game day. My roommate Jake Enebak told me I can't go into my room since Coach Woog was taking a nap. I didn't believe him and walked in to find him sleeping in my bed in his Fruit of the Looms. He popped up without missing a beat, thanking me for quick nap after he showed a recruit around campus and had an hour to kill before he needed to be back at the rink for the game that night. There are many funny stories about Coach Woog related to him being such an approachable coach with a fun personality."


Travis Richards (former player)

"He was a great coach, more importantly he was a great person who I believe truly cared about me as a person. Yeah, you want to win but I feel he went deeper than that and cared about you as an individual.

I was not a high recruit. I committed in the spring after they already had five guys selected. I also red-shirted, which is very rare. I practiced every day and he treated me and made me feel like a part of the team. I owe him a lot.

I was fortunate to play after college and had some great experiences.

I still hold my time as a Gopher as my most fun and greatest hockey experience. Coach Doug Woog was a huge part of that."


Larry Olimb (former player)

"Coach Woog represents Gopher Hockey. As the leader of the program, he always put the program first before any individual player or coach, including himself. We lost such a big part of the program, as no one individual has spent as much time with Gopher Hockey as Wooger – as a player, coach, color commentator, salesman and always a promoter. 

For me personally, I cherished my time with Gopher Hockey because of Doug's philosophy of a team filled with Minnesota kids. I wish we could have given Wooger a National Title, because he deserved it, but he brought the program to the Final Four many times and we just couldn't finish it off, but it wasn't because of the coach.

I remember walking down the steps to our locker room every day for practice and you had to walk by the Coaches' office to get to the locker room. I remember Coach Woog with a smile on his face, excited to be with the team and loving to teach the game. I'm grateful for the opportunity he provided for me and his love for the game and Gopher Hockey!"


Grant Bischoff (former player)

"Doug Woog was a big part of my life who was coaching guys like me on and off the ice. When I was a freshman, one of our first road series of the season was in North Dakota. On the first shift of the game, Jay Cates ran over one of their bigger guys with a real big hit.Wooger leaned in between a couple of us forwards and said, 'That's how you start a rivalry series.' He loved the big games!

When I was a senior, Ben Hankinson and I were planning to go pheasant hunting in Iowa. Wooger heard us talking about it and wanted to go with!  He had to scout a USHL game in Sioux City and wondered if we could meet him near there and he knew a farmer that could get us permission to hunt some fields. We had tons of fun and ended up hunting longer than we should have the second day as we had to get back for a game! Wooger was able to take a flight home, but we had to drive and the roads were bad. We got to Minneapolis just in time to head to Mariucci. Wooger decided we should be healthy scratches. It was the only game that I ever watched from the upper deck of the old Barn....  I miss that old barn and I will miss Coach Woog much more!


Steve Carroll (former editor of Let's Play Hockey)

"From a reporter's perspective, Coach Woog was media gold. Always accessible, always had time, always quotable. I enjoyed talking hockey with him. 

He was what University of Minnesota men's hockey and Pride on Ice is all about. He was an outstanding player and coach and a tremendous loyal supporter of the maroon and gold. 

Also always impressed with his willingness to visit with hockey fans of all ages and greet them with his warm, welcoming smile that lit up a room."


Bill Butters (former assiatant coach)

"Doug and I coached together for 10 years and he gave me a great opportunity. He brought a real energy to the game and it was a joy, especially early on to work with him. He loved his family and his kids. I learned a lot from him.

One thing I learned is that just because they come to the University doesn't mean they know everything. He gave me the free reign to teach kids. He said to me, 'Assume they know nothing and then teach them everything you know.' It allowed me to really break it down and teach them fundamentals on defense. He gave me the freedom to really work with the defensemen.  He had the final say, but he gave his staff a tremendous amount of freedom and input.

We had a lot of wins those 10 years and we were in the Frozen Four. We never won a national championship, but we came close. It was a real joyful time in my life."


Frank Mazzocco (broadcaster and former colleague)

"It was fun working together. He was certainly an interesting person. There was never a dull moment.

His first year of coaching was in the 85-86 season and Wally (Shaver) and I were working for Channel 29 at the time and they won the rights for a playoff round of TV coverage. It was short notice and we jumped in and Doug jumped in right with us. We sat down at Stub and Herbs and he went through every player on his roster and gave us as much info as we could and welcomed us to the fold.

He did everything he could to help us get started and get on board. We eventually covered the team regularly and we'd meet with him about the games and he'd be asking us questions about things we saw. It was a great way to start doing Gopher hockey."


On Woog always making time for others:

"I don't know if he had time, but he made time. He just liked being with people. The first thing I tweeted was he was the human puppy. He just wanted to be with people and have his ears scratched and we loved scratching his ears. I was in places with him and he would walk up to people in hotel lobbies like in Madison and he'd ask, 'Why are you here? Is your family here?' He just loved to talk to people."

His last visit

"I met with him sometime this fall. I'm so glad I got to make that visit with him. Pat Micheletti and Tom Reid and I sat around and talked for about an hour with him. Doug wanted us to see his room and he had pictures all over the room. We just started talking about our backgrounds and our heritage and Tom and I talked about how our families came from Europe. In the middle of us talking about it, he asked if we really wanted to talk about this. He wanted to make sure we were doing it for ourselves. His brain always operated on a different level – all the time. Here he was confined in a memory care facility and he was concerned about us and how we felt. He was very good that way.


On his career after coaching

"Doug was the face of Gopher hockey. Nobody was presenting Gopher Hockey like he was and representing it to the public. He kept people connected to that program because of his work on TV. That was an underrated part of what he did.

He played a similar role with South St. Paul. He was so dedicated to that town throughout. He was doing things to help all the athletes in that town. His summer camps were more than hockey – there was canoeing and swimming and camping and all kinds of other things. It wasn't all hockey. He really wanted well-rounded people. Part of his legacy is he was an educator. He was deeper than just a coach. He was a teacher and educator too."


Colorado Springs

"I remember one trip we went to Colorado Springs. He got the boys on the bus and they took a bus trip down to the Royal Gorge. In Anchorage, he took them on a trip to see the mountain ranges. Those are the kinds of things he wanted to do outside of hockey. He wanted his kids to have a total experience."


Shared Supper

"We went to Boston for a series against Boston College. The two teams got together for a combined dinner before the series happened. It was an opportunity for a shared experience and for the players to meet someone on the other side of the line. That was Doug."



"I feel like I keep coming up with a new one everyday. I've been smiling more than crying. I just keep thinking of Doug and all the work we did together and the times we were on the air and he would get into something and I would just think 'how much rope do you need.' I would just let him go."


On the game

"When his granddaughters started playing he was so thrilled to have them play hockey. He always talked about going to their games – he just wanted the game to expand for everybody."


Pat Michelletti (former player)

"It's sad to lose Doug. I went and saw him about a month and a half ago with Frank Mazzocco and Tom Reid. His first year was my last year.

He and I had a rough beginning but it turned out to be great. He coached different than what I had experienced before. I was coming off a 96-point season and I wasn't on the power play every time so there were some adjustments to be made.

He taught me life lessons and he made be a better player. We've had a great relationship since that year. We overcame our obstacles and got to know each other better and it turned out for the better.

He taught me the game. He brought me from pond hockey to understanding systems and positioning and all of the little nuances of the game besides the offensive side of the game. He taught me more of the team approach, and a lot of the mental part of the game. That helped me tremendously. It made me a better teammate and a better leader. And that is something you carry on through your career and your life.

He was a teacher of the game of life and of the game.

He loved his players. He truly loved being around them."


On the road

"Back in the day, Paul Broten and I would room together. Doug would come in our room and we'd sit and talk hockey – whether it be about the weekend or anything else. He wasn't your typical coach. He liked to have conversations with you. I remember a lot of those nights where we were on the road and he'd stop in and stay and chat for an hour. We'd just sit and chat – those were some of the most fun times that we had."



"We were in overtime playing Denver at home. They knew I had an illegal stick. They called me on it and after serving the penalty I got back to the bench. He was so mad. He said, 'Don't come in here, go sit back in there (the box).' It was cheap shot call on Denver to do it.

We had a lot of good times."


Wally Shaver (broadcaster and former colleague)

"He had a ton of friends. Everybody knew who he was.

I was working North Stars with Frank at the time. I was doing color. I remember we were in Channel 29 studios and the program director there said, 'You know we have a chance to bid on doing Gopher hockey playoff games.' It was Woog's first year. The station picked up those playoffs and Frank and I sat down with Woogie and it turned into a 2-3 hour lunch. We went through every guy on the roster and he said tidbits on every player. The one thing I'll always remember is he always seemed to have time for everybody, no matter who it was.

Frank and I then did Gopher hockey games for seven years and got to know him very well after that. Woog jumped into the broadcast booth and didn't miss a beat. He fit in seamlessly. That's when his popularity grew. The media around him before then were exposed to all the good things about Doug, so I think being on TV helped his popularity mushroom. He became a big part of the fabric of hockey in Minnesota.

He spent a lot of time with Frank and I and a lot of late nights shooting the breeze in his hotel room on the road.

He always had time. I don't know where he found all the time. But he always had time for everybody else. He was always accessible and always very helpful."



"He had a great understanding of the game. Bob (Motzko) mentioned that he was doing a lot of things in the neutral zone that wasn't being done elsewhere in hockey. It was a good education for NHL coaches. He knew what to do in the neutral zone on a defensive and transition basis. He was a real innovator that way."


The player

"A lot of people forget or didn't know he was an All American for the Gophers. He had some outstanding years as a player. I'm glad he got the opportunity he got to be the coach."


Last visit

"I saw him last spring – before he went into assisted living.

He always called me 'Hoser.' 'Hey Hoser, good to see you.; I was one of the few Canadians around.

He always had a smile on his face. He had a lot to lend to the game.

He will be missed."


Tag(s): State Of Hockey  Bryan Zollman