Willard Ikola

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Willard Ikola
Willard Ikola.png
Ikola from 1952 Michiganensian
Born (1932-07-28) July 28, 1932 (age 85)
Eveleth, MN, USA
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Playing career 1952–1958
Olympic medal record
Men's Ice hockey
Representing  United States
Silver medal – second place 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Ice hockey

Willard Ikola (born July 28, 1932) is an American retired ice hockey player and high school boys' hockey coach. Born in Eveleth, Minnesota, a powerhouse in hockey (owning seven state high school championships, including the very first Minnesota state hockey tournament in 1945,[1] and producing six members of US Olympic hockey teams[2][3]) he began playing hockey as a young boy, eventually going on to play in the 1956 Winter Olympics and coaching high school for over 30 years.

Hockey career[edit]

Ikola got his start playing hockey as a boy in Eveleth. He soon took up the position of goaltender which he would play for the rest of his career. After winning three consecutive state championships with the Eveleth boys' hockey team (1948–1950) in the last three years of his high school career, he went on to play with the International Hockey League team, the Detroit Auto Club (1951–1952). After less than a year in the IHL, Ikola went to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the University of Michigan. Although he only played two seasons as a Wolverine, during his time at the University of Michigan, Ikola played on two NCAA championship teams in 1951 and 1952.

In 1955 Ikola would join the United States Olympic hockey team, where he would play in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina, Italy. Ikola helped the US hockey team earn a silver medal as well as being named outstanding goalie of the games. Ikola, alongside former Michigan teammate John Matchefts, became the first Michigan medalists in the winter games. Although the hockey team lost the gold medal to the Soviet Union, they beat the hockey powerhouse Canadian team in the semi-final round for a chance at the gold. At that time, professional hockey was still developing the United States, and all of the players on the US Olympic team were college level players, while other teams like Canada and the Soviet union were composed of professional players.

After playing a few more seasons with the US Olympic team, Ikola retired from playing hockey in 1958. However, he did not leave the sport completely. He soon took up a coaching position for the Edina High School boys' hockey team, where he became one of the most successful high school coaches in history.

High school coaching career[edit]

As head ice hockey coach at Edina High School and Edina East High School in Edina, Minnesota, Ikola compiled a 616-149-38 record, which is third-best in the nation and the 2nd most wins by any coach in the state of Minnesota.[4] During his 33-year career (1958–91), Ikola's teams won 22 Lake Conference championships, 19 section titles and eight state championships. Fifteen of his teams won more than 20 games (out of approximately 25 to 30 games per season), and he had only one losing season; his first year as a coach. During his high school coaching career, Ikola was named Minnesota high school hockey coach of the year six times.[5]

Famous for his trademark houndstooth hat, Ikola was modest when speaking of his coaching record. "I never scored a goal or prevented one either," he said. "All the credit for our success belongs to the kids."

Although he retired from coaching in 1991 he still stayed active in hockey by becoming a scout for the NHL's New York Islanders.[2]

Awards and honors[edit]

Award Year
All-MCHL Second Team 1951–52
All-MCHL Second Team 1952–53
NCAA All-Tournament Second Team 1953 [6]

Hall of fame inductions and honors[edit]

See also[edit]