WCHA Press Releases

Long-time UND bench boss led the Fighting Sioux to three NCAA titles during the decade
North Dakota's Gino Gasparini Named WCHA 1980s Coach Of The Decade Presented By Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup And Spire Credit Union
Long-time UND bench boss led the Fighting Sioux to three NCAA titles during the decade

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Feb. 3, 2021 – Former North Dakota head coach Gino Gasparini has been named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Coach of the Decade for the 1980s, the WCHA announced Wednesday. The honor is presented by Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup and SPIRE Credit Union.

Gasparini, who coached at his alma mater from 1978-1994, led North Dakota to three national championships in the 1980s (1980, 1982, 1987) along with a runner-up finish in 1979 and a third-place finish in 1984. In WCHA play, Gasparini's Fighting Sioux squads captured four regular-season titles and four postseason crowns during the decade. The Fort Frances, Ont., native compiled a 16-season record of 392-248-24 (.608) with North Dakota, including a 277-197-21 (.581) mark in the WCHA. His 392 career wins are the most in North Dakota's storied history and stand as the sixth-most in WCHA history.

His pupils included Hobey Baker winner Tony Hrkac and 17 All-Americans – among them James Patrick, Jon Casey, Scott Sandelin, Ed Belfour and Greg Johnson. He coached two WCHA MVPs (Phil Sykes -1981-82; Hrkac- 1986-87), two WCHA Scoring Champions (Hrkac – 1986-87; Steve Johnson – 1987-88) and five WCHA Goaltending Champions (Bob Iwabuchi – 1978-79, 1979-80; Casey – 1981-82, 1982-83; Belfour – 1986-87). Thirty-five of his former players went on to play in the NHL. Future NCAA and NHL head coaches who played under Gasparini include North Dakota's Brad Berry, Minnesota Duluth's Scott Sandelin, Edmonton's Dave Tippett and former North Dakota and Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.

Gasparini's 1986-87 squad is considered one of the greatest in NCAA history. That season, the Sioux rolled to a 40-8-0 overall record and a 29-6-0 mark in WCHA play, setting WCHA records for wins and wins in league play. After capturing the MacNaughton Cup in the regular season and the WCHA postseason title, the Sioux took down St. Lawrence, Harvard and Michigan State in the NCAA tournament to skate off with the school's third national championship of the decade. In 35 WCHA games that season, North Dakota set records for goals (200), assists (319), points (519) and shorthanded goals (16) that still stand today.

Gasparini was named the WCHA Coach of the Year three times (1979, 1982, 1987) and received the American Hockey Coaches Association's Spencer Penrose Award in 1987. In 1999, the AHCA honored him with the John MacInnes Award. He was inducted into the UND Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

As a player, Gasparini was a four-year letterman with the Fighting Sioux from 1964-68, serving as the team captain as a senior. Gasparini returned to his alma mater in 1969 as an assistant coach under Rube Bjorkman from 1969-78 before taking the reins as the program's head coach for the 1978-79 season. Following his retirement from coaching, Gasparini served as the commissioner of the United States Hockey League from 1994-2003 and the USHL president from 2003-09.

Gasparini is the fourth 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 1980s Player of the Decade will be announced Feb. 4.

Gino Gasparini Year-by-Year
Season School (Conference) Overall Conference (Place) WCHA Postseason NCAA
1978-79 North Dakota (WCHA) 30-11-1 22-10-0 (1st) Regional Champion NCAA Runner-up
1979-80 North Dakota (WCHA) 31-8-1 21-6-1 (1st) Regional Champion NCAA Champion
1980-81 North Dakota (WCHA) 21-15-2 14-12-2 (t-5th) First Round  
1981-82 North Dakota (WCHA) 35-12-0 19-7-0 (1st) WCHA Champion NCAA Champion
1982-83 North Dakota (WCHA) 21-13-2 16-9-1 (2nd) Semifinals  
1983-84 North Dakota (WCHA) 31-12-2 16-8-2 (2nd) WCHA Runner-up Third Place
1984-85 North Dakota (WCHA) 24-16-2 19-14-1 (4th) Semifinals  
1985-86 North Dakota (WCHA) 24-16-1 19-14-1 (6th) First Round  
1986-87 North Dakota (WCHA) 40-8-0 29-6-0 (1st) WCHA Champion NCAA Champion
1987-88 North Dakota (WCHA) 21-20-1 16-18-1 (4th) Third Place  
1988-89 North Dakota (WCHA) 22-18-1 19-15-1 (t-3rd) First Round  
1989-90 North Dakota (WCHA) 28-13-4 15-10-3 (3rd) Third Place First Round
1990-91 North Dakota (WCHA) 24-17-2 18-12-2 (4th) Third Place  
1991-92 North Dakota (WCHA) 17-21-1 12-19-1 (t-7th) First Round  
1992-93 North Dakota (WCHA) 12-25-1 11-20-1 (8th) First Round  
1993-94 North Dakota (WCHA) 11-23-4 11-14-4 (8th) First Round  
Totals   392-248-24 277-197-21    

Other Top Coaches of the 1980s

Mike Sertich, Minnesota Duluth: Won two WCHA regular-season titles and two WCHA postseason crowns in the 1980s, compiling an overall record of 163-121-14 (.570) and a 117-98-10 (.542) mark in WCHA play during the decade. Jeff Sauer, Colorado College/Wisconsin: Won one NCAA championship (1987-88) and two WCHA postseason crowns from 1979-89 while compiling a 206-159-17 (.562) overall mark and a 155-126-12 (.549) WCHA record during the decade with Colorado College (1979-82) and Wisconsin (1982-89). Doug Woog, Minnesota: Won two WCHA regular-season titles between 1985-1989 and guided the Golden Gophers to a 137-48-4 (.735) overall record and a 104-32-3 (.759) mark in WCHA play during the decade.

Previous WCHA Coach of the Decade Winners

1950s: Vic Heyliger, Michigan
1960s: Murray Armstrong, Denver
1970s: Herb Brooks, Minnesota

For more on the 1980s 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 Spire Credit Union

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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.