September 30, 2022 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Photo by Anil Jergens

The 2022-2023 Colorado College hockey season begins on Saturday, Oct. 1, when the Tigers take on the Air Force Falcons in an exhibition game at the Air Force Academy. The first two CC home games of the season will take place on homecoming weekend: Friday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 9.

With a promising second-year head coach and a young and developing roster, the Tigers seem bound for success. While the current team is still working its way back to NCAA Division I glory, let’s look at the last Tigers squad to win the national championship in hockey.

The year is 1957, and the Tigers have just won the NCAA Division I Championship against the University of Michigan Wolverines. The game ended in a lopsided 13-6 score, with seven of CC’s 13 goals coming in the third period alone.

It was a dominant season for CC, who played their way to a 25-5-0 record, including going 19-1 at home. However, the team’s roster was a far cry from the modern-day Tiger hockey squads that we root for at Ed Robson Arena. In an era before recruiting restrictions and age limits were strictly enforced, 18 of the team’s 19 players were Canadian born.

Leading the way for the Tigers was center Bill “Red” Hay, who had 73 total points (goals plus assists) during CC’s championship run, even though he was a newcomer to the program compared to others on the team.

Hay spent his junior hockey career with the Regina Pats, scoring 78 points in 62 games, and played at the University of Saskatchewan when he decided to drop out of college after the 1953-1954 season. The following year, he packed up his bags and hitchhiked down to Colorado Springs, where he convinced Colorado College to give athletic scholarships to both him and his good friend Bob McCusker; both players ended up being standout performers on the 1956-1957 championship team.

It wasn’t as if CC was desperate for quality players such as Hay and McCusker to improve a mediocre roster. The Tigers had been to three other national championship games in the previous 10 years and won one of them. The two players joined a squad that was already a championship contender even though they talked their way onto the program (as opposed to earning a roster spot with outstanding play), only to end up being the two best players on that team.

In the championship game, McCusker and Hay combined accounted for seven of the team’s 13 goals, with McCusker also providing assists on two of Hay’s scores and Hay providing an assist on one of McCusker’s.

Hay received a geology degree from CC and originally planned to join his father in the oil industry after college, but decided to give professional hockey a chance, even though college players were rarely successful at the professional level during this time.

Similarly to how he usurped conventional recruiting to succeed at CC, Hay became the first great collegiate player to truly succeed in the National Hockey League. Hay was the first collegiate player to win the Calder Trophy as a rookie of the year in 1960 and then won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks the following year. He was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2015, even though he retired from his playing career at a young 31 years old to begin his career in oil.

Even though this team was the last to win the national championship, there have been numerous other teams since then that have made it back to the finals. The most recent finals appearance for the Tigers came in 1996 when they lost to Michigan in overtime 3-2.

From 1994 to 2011, the Tigers made the NCAA Tournament 12 times, making it to at least the quarterfinals on seven occasions. After the conclusion of the 2010-2011 season, CC endured a lengthy tournament drought that ended last season when they made it to the conference quarterfinals before falling in two games to No. 5 North Dakota.

If the current Tiger squad can learn one thing from the 1957 Champions, it is that, while hard work and practice can make a team good, sometimes a little luck is needed to truly make them great.

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