Forty years and counting, Bob Peters refuses to stop building.
The former coach at University of North Dakota and Bemidji State University--and Fort Frances native--was elected to the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in the “builder” category last week is anything but retired these days.
But including his pleasure with the honour, Peters couldn’t help but mention the continued growth of the three-year-old College Hockey of America conference which he presides over as commissioner.
“Even after retirement, I’m very much committed to hockey and enjoy being involved. What’s so interesting and captures my imagination is the incredible growth that’s going on,” he said. “When I was playing in the 1950s (in North Dakota), there were 19 men’s teams across the States. Today there are 60 teams in six conferences.”
In addition to that, Peters still works at BSU as a part-time staff member with the Athletics department, heading up fundraising initiatives for the men’s and women’s programs.
“Obviously, I still like to keep busy,” he remarked, adding he’s relishing the nomination as a nod of approval from his former stomping grounds.
“It’s quite an honour to be recognized by your peers. I’m excited by it,” he said.
“[The induction] doesn’t surprise me,” said town resident Ron King, a longtime friend of Peters. “For many years he was the winningest years in college hockey. Bob is an exceptional coach and person.”
Looking back, looking ahead
You want hockey stories? Peters has his share. Even after over 50 years involved in the sport, he can sprout off a story of his old JC’s team in town, managed by Gord McTaggart and featuring himself, Gord Calder and Bill Lloyd.
“We just had an excellent juvenile team,” he recalled. “I was in my tenth and eleventh grade. I think that era right there was pretty delightful.”
King, who left town with Peters to go play at North Dakota, remembers his friend’s intensity as being a “hockey asset.”
“I saw intensity in the game his whole entire life. He’s an intense man. He would have brought that intensity to the game of hockey in any fashion. He was small in stature but big in heart and in ability. That’s why in those days.
“He was even considered by the Detroit Red Wings,” he continued. “There were only six teams in the league back then so to be even considered by the NHL from a little town in Northwestern Ontario was a tremendous honour.”
After landing the assistant coaching job with North Dakota and helped lead the Fighting Sioux to the NCAA division I title in 1963. It was at BSU where Peters made his biggest waves, guiding the Beavers to “Final Four” berths in each division I, II, III between 1966 and 2001. He retired among the nation’s top records at 728-267-47 record.
“I coached some very good teams in those years,” recalled Peters.
“That’s one of the true joys and perks of being involved with athletics. You can meet so many people. It’s extremely enjoyable because of the people I’ve associated with.”
One of six NWO hall-of-fame entries (others included former Olympians Curt Harnett, Mary DePiero and Sandra Greaves, all of Thunder Bay), Peters and wife, Marylou, will head to the Lakehead for the 21st annual induction dinner at the Valhalla Inn.
His son, Steve, lives in Phoenix as a video producer with NHL’s Coyotes. Barbara, his daughter, resides in Colorado.