MILWAUKEE — It’s been 50 years since Dartmouth and Michigan met in the first NCAA Championship game. Fifty years since Spif Kerivan, member of the Dartmouth squad, lost his front teeth. “My memories of the game are somewhat personal,” he says.
“I also remember the game as a controversial game in terms of some of the calls,” continues Kerivan. He’s not alone.
Fifty years later, more than 20 hockey players from both teams meet again at this 50th NCAA Championship game, and every one of them remembers the same thing about the first one: The Goal.
Of course, to about half the players in attendance, there was nothing controversial about The Goal. Some of the other players — the Dartmouth players — insist there was no goal at all.
At the end of the second period of that first NCAA Championship game, a goal was scored — The Goal — that led to Michigan’s first NCAA title in a most unusual way.
Michigan alumnus Wally Grant says The Goal is just a difference of opinion. “It was a disputed goal. It went up in the air and came down on the net, and it bounced back behind the goalie. They [Dartmouth] thought the whistle had blown, and our team obviously did not.
“After 50 years,” he continues, “I think they’ve forgiven us.”
“It was the first time in the history of college hockey that a goal was scored while a team was sitting in the dressing room,” says Bill Riley, captain of the ’48 Dartmouth team. “This is how it happened.
“The puck was dropped. He [the referee] blew a whistle. The goalie heard the whistle and skated out of the net. A Michigan player went down and tucked it into the net.”
The period ended, and the teams headed into the locker rooms. “When we came out, the score was 5-4 instead of 4-4, and we were very disappointed,” says Riley. “It was just one of those things. It was a tough way to drive home, having a goal scored on us while we were sitting in the dressing room.
“I dream about it.”
Don’t ask the Michigan players about the controversy. “Frankly, I don’t remember the controversy,” says Michigan reserve goaltender Paul Milanowski.
Don’t ask Dartmouth players who scored The Goal. “I don’t know who it was,” says Riley. “I have no idea.”
“There was no goal,” echoes a teammate.
“You have to play over those things, like injuries, disputed goals, referees,” says Grant. Replaying those memories — no matter how they’re remembered — has kept these players close for fifty years.
“Our memories remain because weve formed such strong friendships between the two teams,” says Bob Norton, member of the ’48 Michigan team. “To have 13 here from Dartmouth and 11 here from Michigan means something.”
It means something extraordinary. Fifty years of NCAA Championship hockey. Fifty years of friendship. Fifty years to rankle over one single goal.