When CC advanced that season to the NCAA championship game against Michigan — played 50 years ago Friday — the price rose to $1.20 for general admission seats at the Broadmoor Ice Palace.
The KRDO radio broadcast of the game was sandwiched between Dance Date and Saturday Night Dance.
Then known as the Bengals, CC entered the third period with a two-goal lead against Michigan before breaking open the game with seven goals to win 13-6 over “the mythical Wolverines” — as they were called the next day in the Gazette-Telegraph — and capture the school’s second and last national championship.
“We used one line after another to keep the pressure on them like they wouldn’t believe it,” said Harley Patterson, who scored a goal in the third period and still lives in Colorado Springs. “We had the horses to do it.”
When the players left CC, they went into business of one sort or another, became husbands and fathers. Only 15 are alive, but 12 returned for a reunion this month. They normally gather every few years in Arizona, where some spend their winters and golf is easy.
The team was led in part by the “Hay-ch Bomb” line, named for the nuclear weapon of the time and players Bill “Red” Hay, Bob McCusker and Ike Scott. Hay became the first U.S. NCAA player to make an NHL team, later made some money in the oil business and is now CEO at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 1956-57 team out- scored opponents 205-106 and remains the winningest in program history at 25-5.
“We kind of overpowered most of the teams we played that year,” said McCusker, whose 47 goals that season still rank first on CC’s season scoring chart.
Hockey was different. Goaltenders didn’t wear facemasks. Players wore leather caps and gloves and little upper-body protection. In college, body checking wasn’t allowed in the offensive zone.
“You couldn’t hit anybody out there,” said Patterson, who runs a cabinet store in Colorado Springs. “We played up and down, covering our wings and those guys were all over the ice. We played like we were taught in Canada.”
Mainly Canadians, the players were recruited by word of mouth.
After hitching a ride from Saskatchewan, Hay and Mc-Cusker showed up on the first day of tryouts sight unseen and without promise of a scholarship from coach Tom Bedecki. In fall of 1956, CC did not require entrance exams for admission, and “it was fair to say that the college was in a period of transition from a ‘safety school’ to a more rigorous, prestigious school,” said Jessy Randall, curator of special collections at CC’s Tutt Library.
The players’ scholarships were funded by private citizens and the El Pomar Foundation. Most of the players also had jobs at CC and in the community.
CC bonded by helping each other find rides to the rink, which was at The Broadmoor hotel, and buying food for one another when money was stretched.
“It was tough,” Patterson said. “Some of the guys didn’t have a job, or they lost one. . . . Some of them were pretty hungry.”
Don Wishart, who later earned a master’s at RPI and owned an engineering firm, was the captain.
“We were a family,” Wishart said. “That’s how it was through everything. If one guy was having a hard time, then we talked and got things going again.”
Those tight bonds proved invaluable on the ice.
“Each time you went out on the ice, you were playing for the guys (on the bench),” Patterson said.
In the NCAA semifinals, CC met Clarkson, a team it had not played that season.
The matchup worried the players more than the one against Michigan, even though the Wolverines had claimed six of the past nine NCAA championships.
“Once we beat Clarkson, we knew that we could go out and beat Michigan, because we had played them before,” Patterson said.
Michigan also had key players injured and three were ruled ineligible.
Before the championship game, Michigan coach Vic Heyliger, who started Air Force’s hockey program in 1968, told the Gazette-Telegraph, “We’ll be lucky to come within three goals of Colorado College. We’re all banged up.”
He was right.
“Nobody was going to beat us that night,” Hay said. “They could have put 12 men on the ice.”