WCHA Press Releases

Led the Fighting Sioux to three WCHA titles and the 1997 NCAA crown during the decade
North Dakota's Dean Blais Named WCHA 1990s Coach Of The Decade Presented By Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup And Spire Credit Union
Led the Fighting Sioux to three WCHA titles and the 1997 NCAA crown during the decade

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Feb. 17, 2021 – Former North Dakota head coach Dean Blais has been named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Coach of the Decade for the 1990s, the WCHA announced Wednesday. The honor is presented by Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup and SPIRE Credit Union.

Blais, who coached at North Dakota from 1994-2004, led the Fighting Sioux to two national championships (1997, 2000) along with a runner-up finish in 2001. In WCHA play, Blais' UND squads captured four regular-season titles and two postseason crowns during his tenure. After taking the reins in Grand Forks at the start of the 1994-95 season, Blais guided the Sioux to a 130-60-9 (.676) overall record and a WCHA mark of 96-48-8 (.658) with three WCHA regular season championships, one postseason title and the 1997 NCAA championship through the remainder of the decade.

The International Falls, Minn., native compiled an 18-season record of 408-248-63 (.611) with North Dakota and Omaha, coaching in the WCHA (1994-2004, 2010-13), CCHA (2009-10) and NCHC (2013-17) during his tenure. As a WCHA head coach at UND and Omaha, Blais posted an overall mark of 316-167-43 (.642) and a 218-107-35 (.654) ledger in WCHA play, winning the MacNaughton Cup (regular-season champion) five times, the Broadmoor Trophy (postseason champion) twice and two NCAA championships.

Blais coached eight Hobey Baker Award finalists and 20 All-Americans during his career, including Jason Blake, Curtis Murphy, Jeff Panzer, Brandon Bochenski and Zach Parise.

Blais was honored with the American Hockey Coaches Association's Spencer Penrose Award as the national coach of the year in 1997 and 2000 and took home WCHA Coach of the Year honors four times between his stops at North Dakota and Omaha (1996-97, 1998-99, 2000-01, 2010-11).

He began his career as an assistant under WCHA 1980s Coach of the Decade Gino Gasparini from 1980-89, helping guide North Dakota to a pair of national championships in 1982 and 1987. Blais also spent two seasons as the associate head coach of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets (2004-06) and the general manager and head coach of the USHL's Fargo Force (2007-09). In 2010, he guided the United States to a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships with the U.S. squad taking down host Canada, 6-5, in overtime in Saskatoon, Sask. During a brief stint at the high school level, Blais led Roseau (Minn.) High School to a state championship in 1990.

Blais is the fifth of seven Coach of the Decade honorees that will be announced by the WCHA during the 2020-21 season. The WCHA is also honoring an outstanding player and selecting an All-Decade Team for each decade as the league celebrates 70 Years of Excellence. The WCHA 1990s Player of the Decade will be announced Feb. 18.

Dean Blais Year-by-Year
Season School (Conference) Overall Conference (Place) WCHA Postseason NCAA
1994-95 North Dakota (WCHA) 18-18-3 14-15-1 (T-5th) WCHA Quarterfinals  
1995-96 North Dakota (WCHA) 19-18-1 16-15-1 (T-4th) WCHA First Round  
1996-97 North Dakota (WCHA) 31-10-2 21-10-1 (T-1st) WCHA Champion NCAA Champion
1997-98 North Dakota (WCHA) 30-8-1 21-6-1 (1st) WCHA Runner-up West Semifinal
1998-99 North Dakota (WCHA) 32-6-2 24-2-2 (1st) WCHA Runner-up West Semifinal
1999-2000 North Dakota (WCHA) 31-8-5 17-6-5 (2nd) WCHA Champion NCAA Champion
2000-01 North Dakota (WCHA) 29-8-9 18-4-6 (1st) WCHA Runner-up NCAA Runner-up
2001-02 North Dakota (WCHA) 16-19-2 11-15-2 (T-6th) WCHA First Round  
2002-03 North Dakota (WCHA) 26-12-5 14-9-5 (4th) WCHA Semifinals West Semifinal
2003-04 North Dakota (WCHA) 30-8-3 20-5-3 (1st) WCHA Runner-up West Final
2009-10 Omaha (CCHA) 20-16-6     West Semifinal
2010-11 Omaha (WCHA) 21-16-2 17-9-2 (3rd) WCHA First Round West Semifinal
2011-12 Omaha (WCHA) 14-18-6 11-12-5 (9th) WCHA First Round  
2012-13 Omaha (WCHA) 19-18-2 14-12-2 (7th) WCHA First Round  
2013-14 Omaha (NCHC) 17-18-2      
2014-15 Omaha (NCHC) 20-13-6     NCAA Frozen Four
2015-16 Omaha (NCHC) 18-17-1      
2016-17 Omaha (NCHC) 17-17-5      
Totals   408-248-63 218-107-35    

Other Top Coaches of the 1990s

Doug Woog, Minnesota: Won two WCHA regular-season titles and three WCHA postseason crowns in the 1990s, compiling an overall record of 251-139-28 (.634) and a 178-50-32 (.746) mark in WCHA play during the decade. Jeff Sauer, Wisconsin: Won one NCAA championship (1989-90), one WCHA regular-season crown and three WCHA postseason titles from 1989-99 while compiling a 236-157-24 (.595) overall mark and a 170-116-23 (.587) WCHA record during the decade. George Gwozdecky, Denver: Won one WCHA postseason title from 1994-99 while compiling a 108-80-13 (.570) overall mark and a 75-64-13 (.536) WCHA record during the decade.

Previous WCHA Coach of the Decade Winners

1950s: Vic Heyliger, Michigan
1960s: Murray Armstrong, Denver
1970s: Herb Brooks, Minnesota
1980s: Gino Gasparini, North Dakota

For more on the 1990s and the rest of the WCHA's history, visit our 70 Years of Excellence Page.

Celebrating 70 Years of Excellence

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will celebrate 70 Years of Excellence throughout the 2020-21 season. The league will name all-decade teams and players and coaches of the decade for each of its seven decades. The teams and individuals will be selected by a panel of current and former WCHA staffers and media members who have or are currently covering the WCHA. More than 200 nominees were submitted for consideration by the 21 schools that have called the WCHA home since 1951.

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About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Men's League

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, among the most historic, tradition-rich and successful conferences in all of collegiate athletics, is marking its 69th season of men's competition in 2020-21. The 10-team NCAA Division I conference consists of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), the University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats). For more information, visit wcha.com.