Feb. 24, 2016
By Lisa Mushett
The Big One ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦
The Notre Dame/Edina pipeline really started to take shape with another standout hockey player ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” Ryan Thang ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” who was being recruited by all the big-time hockey programs including Minnesota, Michigan, Denver and Colorado College. Thang was playing one day at the Braemar Arena when Slaggert introduced himself, and asked if he had ever thought about playing for the Irish.
“Honestly, at the time, Ryan had never considered playing hockey at Notre Dame,” his mother Wendy said. “He was looking at Michigan, but they did not have many players from Minnesota. During the spring, he had a week to take his college visits and went to Denver, Colorado College and finally Notre Dame. It was on a Wednesday and it was the last day of school. It was 95 degrees and the winds were blowing about 45 miles an hour as we landed on that little puddle jumper from Chicago to South Bend. We got to the JACC (Joyce Center) and there was no ice in the building. It wasn’t the best start, but as we began walking around campus, everyone we encountered was so amazing. I could see Ryan’s face changing with each meeting. We were then introduced to academic advisor Adam Sargent (a former Irish lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in a car accident his senior year at the school). What he told us would make any parent want their son to sign on the dotted line right then and there.
Gushing as she recalled the trip, and beaming with pride, Wendy Thang continued.
“As we were flying back to Minnesota, I asked Ryan what he thought. He said, ‘If I come here, and others come here, we could do something really special. I could tell right away that Notre Dame was where he wanted to be.”
Thang registered 57 goals and 58 assists as a left wing at Notre Dame from 2006-10, helping the Fighting Irish to a pair of Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Tournament titles and the 2008 NCAA Frozen Four.
As soon as the Thangs returned to Edina, they immediately made a few phone calls to hear more about Notre Dame. The first call was to their neighbor down the street ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” Dan Carlson.
“Dan was everything I strove to be both on and off the ice growing up,” Thang said. “He was a great role model for me as he had the same beliefs when it came to hockey and academics. He told me the hockey was going to get better at Notre Dame because they did things the right way and that it was the best decision he had ever made. I knew then I wanted to go to Notre Dame!”
A two-time captain, Thang finished his career with 115 points and was named to the All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) Rookie Team his freshman season. New head coach Jeff Jackson took over for Poulin in 2005, and in Thang’s second year (2006-07), the Irish achieved its first No. 1 ranking. As a junior in 2007-08, the Irish advanced to their first-ever NCAA Frozen Four where they beat Michigan in the semifinals before falling to Boston College 4-1 in the championship. As a senior, he was one of 20 finalists for the Lowe’s SENIOR Class Award.
Graduating with a degree in finance, Thang played for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League for three years before finally being called up to play his one and only NHL game for the Nashville Predators on Halloween 2011.
The Next Big Thing ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦
Sitting back in Edina was yet another multi-sport superstar named Anders Lee. Named the 2008 Gatorade Football Player of the Year in Minnesota, a “Mr. Hockey” Finalist in 2009 and an outstanding pitcher and third baseman on the diamond, Lee had always been a Notre Dame fan. He and his friend, Joe Gleason, who went on to play hockey at the other ND ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” North Dakota ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” would get together every Saturday to watch Notre Dame football. In fact, when Gleason committed to North Dakota, he removed all of the Notre Dame memorabilia hanging in his bedroom and gave it to Lee.
Admitting he has seen the movie “Rudy” “at least a 100 times,” Lee’s friends would always tell him he should play football for the Irish. Yet, it was the hockey program that caught Lee’s attention, courtesy of the coaching staff and Thang, who Lee worked out with the summer before his freshman year at Notre Dame.
“I wanted to repeat what Dan Carlson did for me,” Thang said. “It was a much easier sales pitch to Anders because the program was successful. I told him all the right people were there for him in every area so he would be successful in life after hockey. I reminded him that hockey would come to an end, but he would have a great education from a world-class university.”
Lee heeded Thang’s words when making the ultimate decision to play for the Irish.
Even from an early age growing up in Edina, Lee (left) had a passion for the University of Notre Dame and that was on full display in 2013 when he earned All-America honors with the Fighting Irish on the way to being drafted by the NHL’s New York Islanders.
“I had great examples before me, especially Ryan,” Lee said. “I really admired Ryan when I was younger and to see him go to Notre Dame, and love it, it inspires you to go there. I also remember (former Irish football coaching legend) Lou Holtz saying about Notre Dame, ‘If you’ve been there, no explanation is necessary. If you haven’t, none is adequate.’ That stuck with me.
“Notre Dame was the perfect situation for me,” Lee continued. “I wanted to play right away and I needed to feel wanted. I also was looking for a school that could prepare me for life after college, whether it was the NHL or the business world.”
Lee went on to be the best of the bunch in only three years as he earned second team All-America status, finished his Irish career with 116 points and was the team’s lone captain as a junior. Lee currently plays for the NHL’s New York Islanders, but still makes it a point to come back to campus for the Irish Pro Camp each September.
The Present ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦
Ask any Minnesotan about Edina hockey and you might hear the word “cake eater” muttered under their breath as they describe the historic program. Made famous in the 1992 film “The Mighty Ducks” starring Emilio Estevez, a “cake eater” refers to people from Edina saying they are so rich they can have their cake and eat it too. While, admittedly, there might be a little truth to this, Thang insists the hockey community in Edina is different.
During high school and college, Thang ran his own shooting school out of his parents’ basement to help pay for hockey. His “Shooter Tutor,” which was basically a wooden board in front of a net with five holes cut out of it ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” the four corners and the “five hole” (the space between a goaltender’s pads) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” would serve as the training equipment for kids within the Edina youth programs for years. Two of those players constantly in Thang’s basement were Fogarty and Malmquist, who started working with him when they were in middle school.
Fogarty remembers those training sessions well.
“Ryan was the stud of Edina hockey when I was a kid,” Fogarty said. “I looked up to him and he taught me a lot not only about hockey, but what it meant to play at Notre Dame. I also played with Anders in high school and he told me Notre Dame was everything I could want in a college experience both on and off the ice.”
As with anything extraordinary, word travels fast, especially in this tight-knit community. Soon the pipeline really started flowing as Fogarty convinced best friend Ostlie to come to what many have said to be “Edina, but only in Indiana” when referring to Notre Dame. Then in 2014, Brauer and Hurley joined the roster, and last, but certainly not least if the Irish coaches have a say, was Malmquist, who was also a “Mr. Hockey” finalist and the Associated Press Minnesota Hockey Player of the Year in 2015.
“Contrary to popular belief, we do not sit in the office and say we need to get more Edina kids,” Slaggert said with a smile. “It has just worked out organically that when we have a need, there always seems to be one there. Edina hockey is a small community whose opinions carry a lot of weight with each other and they value what we present.
“”The quality of coaching in Edina is high with Coach Giles and his staff at the high school,” Slaggert added. “On top of that, all the youth coaches in the area do a great job teaching the fundamentals and getting the kids ready to play for the high school.”
“It is pretty special that so many Edina guys either have played or are currently playing for Notre Dame.” Fogarty said. “The five of us are always bragging about Edina’s success and talking about our state tournament memories. Not many college players have their best friends from high school still on the ice with them and able to share that experience together.”
There’s No Place Like Home
Whether it is tradition or community, passion or leadership or to raise their children there, like Notre Dame, people always come back to Edina. Now in the medical devices industry, Thang brought the fourth generation back to Edina with 11-month-old son, Mason, who carries his mini hockey stick everywhere he goes (Thang’s wife, Ali, is also from Edina and is a product of Edina Youth Hockey, playing into high school). The same holds true with Carlson. After living in Virginia for years as a financial analyst, he returned home and has a 6-year-old daughter, Olive, playing youth hockey. What is it about Edina?
“I have fond memories of my time growing up here and playing hockey,” Carlson said. “There was always an expectation of excellence, of going to college and doing well in life. I wanted my daughter to have those same values and principles surrounding her when she grows up.”
Thang, his wife Ali and their son Mason visit a local rink in Thang’s hometown of Edina.
Thang agrees you can take the boy out of Edina, but you can’t take Edina out of the man.
“Edina is a wonderful community that has given me a lot. It is incredible to see people take so much pride and work so hard. They are all good people who are raised right and want to do well in school and life. No matter what your background, these same principles prevail. Who would not want to raise their son in an environment like that?”
As Nyrop stressed when he returned to Edina to speak at a banquet just before his death in a story told by Bill Ryerse as part of the “City of Hockey” DVD – “You play juniors, you play high school, you play college hockey and maybe more, but after you are done, you owe it to the community to come back to Edina and coach.”
Words Thang, and all the other Irish players from Edina, have taken to heart.
“I want to give back to the next generation and be a resource for kids as they make those tough choices whether it is hockey or just life in general. I had plenty of mentors and positive role models while I was growing up. I hope people view me the same. Everyone just loves their hockey in Edina, and who knows, maybe I can convince a few more to play at Notre Dame.”
Tradition ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ Pass It On!
Notre Dame Hockey Players/Coaches from Edina
Bo Brauer (current) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” right wing
Dan Carlson (’01) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” left wing
John Carlin (’91) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” defense
Tom Carroll (1990-99) – assistant coach
Rob Copeland (’92) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” defense
Sam Cornelius (’01) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” defense
Steve Curry (’74) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” defense
John Deasy (’83) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” forward
John DeVoe (’83) – left wing/right wing
Steven Fogarty (current) – center
Paul Gagnon (’81) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” defense
Robert Herber (’89) – right wing
Connor Hurley (current) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” center
Neal Johnson (’97) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” center
Tim Kuehl (’90) – right wing
Anders Lee (’13) – left wing, All-American, now with NHL’s New York Islanders
Dylan Malmquist (current) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” left wing
Kevin Nugent Sr. (’78) – left wing/right wing, played in WHA’s Indianapolis Racers during Wayne Gretzky’s first pro season of 1978-79
Bill Nyrop (’74) – defense, All-American, won Stanley Cups in Montreal from 1976-78, was part of Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) 50th Anniversary Team, ND’s defensive player of the year award is named for him
Ben Ostlie (current) ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” right wing
Tom Ryan (’66) – forward (played during club years)
Steve Soderling (’92) – right wing
Ryan Thang (’10) – left wing
Scott Vickman (’92) – defense
— ND —
Lisa Mushett spent six years in the sports information office (now known as athletics communications) at the University of Notre Dame from 1998-2004, working with the Fighting Irish football, women’s swimming & diving and rowing programs. She now serves as director of marketing and communications for United States Tennis Association (USTA) Northern, a regional branch of the USTA covering Minnesota, North and South Dakota and northwestern Wisconsin.