By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
In 1940, the University of Minnesota hockey team won the national championship, led by two All-American players.
One went on to fame as a Gophers coach, and the university eventually named its hockey arena after him. That was John Mariucci.
The other was Harold Paulsen. He also went on to coach, starting the hockey program at Michigan State University, before leaving the sport and eventually settling down as a physical education professor at Mankato State.
“Mariucci was more flamboyant, more well-known,” Paulsen’s son Bob Paulsen said. “My father was a quieter guy, a hard-working guy.”
Harold Paulsen died Tuesday at Mankato House Health Care Center. He was 91.
Paulsen taught at MSU from 1962 until he retired in 1988 but was not affiliated with the Mavericks hockey team.
“Hockey was a really important part of his life,” Bob Paulsen said. “He was really attached to the University of Minnesota hockey team. ... He was always interested in hockey. When I was a kid, we’d always go to Minnesota games and North Stars games and games at Mankato State.”
Born in 1919 in Virginia, Minn., Harold “Babe” Paulsen went to college on a football scholarship, according to his son. But when a shoulder injury ended his football career, he decided to go out for hockey, a sport he played in high school.
“The rest is history,” Bob Paulsen said.
The Gophers won the Amateur Athletic Union hockey tournament, which served as the national championship, in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1940. They went 18-0-0 that season. The next season, Paulsen was named team captain, succeeding Mariucci, as Minnesota went 11-3-2.
Although the Gophers do not keep scoring records before 1950, Paulsen was the Gophers all-time leading scorer at the time of his graduation, according to multiple accounts, and held that title for several years. In 2001, he was honored as one of the program’s top 50 “Legends on Ice.” His likeness is included on one of two murals featuring Gophers All-Americans inside Mariucci Arena.
“He was a very, very good hockey player,” former MSU coach Don Brose said. “There were lots of good reports about him. ... He was very, very mild-mannered, but when he got on a hockey rink, a different switch turned on. He was a hard-nosed player.”
Paulsen signed a professional contract with the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League but didn’t play after joining the Navy during World War II.
After his playing days ended, Paulsen coached high school hockey at Roseau and Thief River Falls before being recruited to coach college hockey at Michigan State. He had a record of 6-25-0 with the Spartans before resigning after the 1951 season.
From there, he earned his doctorate in physical education from the University of Michigan and was the athletic director at Slippery Rock State Teachers College in Pennsylvania before moving to Mankato with his wife, Clara, a Mountain Lake native, and their three children. Clara Paulsen died in 2006.
“Mankato became a permanent home,” Bob Paulsen said. “They were very happy here.”