FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Leonard W. Brumm, Jr, or “Oakie” to those who knew him, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey coach, athletic director, and men’s basketball coach, passed away on January 17, 2006, in Racine, Wisconsin, after battling an aggressive form of cancer. Brumm coached hockey and basketball and served as UAF Director of Athletics from 1951-1953.
The UAF Hockey Alumni Association had only received information on Brumm two weeks prior to its First Annual UAF Hockey Alumni Reunion, and was able to convince him, his wife Frances and daughter Patricia to come to Fairbanks to participate in the festivities.
Brumm summed up his time spent in Fairbanks in his different capacities to UAF Hockey Alumni Association Secretary, Shawn Head over the phone in June.
“During my tenure, we combined with the Fairbanks Eagles to win the 1952 Fur Rendezvous tournament in Anchorage, a very prestigious event that all the military teams (two in Fairbanks area and six in the Anchorage area) were combining forces to win.”
“During the 1952-53 season I also arranged for the first ever basketball trip for the U of A to take to the ‘Lower 48.’ We lost all our games but we broke the ice.”
“In addition I had to build the ice rink (outdoors). It was called ‘Brumm’s Glacier’ and was written about in the Saturday Evening Post of Sept. 6, 1952. I also built a ski jump at Chena Ridge and a swimming pool right in the middle of the ice rink. They were called ‘Brumm’s Bump’ and ‘Brumm’s Bathtub’. I had a very ‘colorful’ time at U of A. It ended up with the University buying out the end of my contract because they could not keep up with me.”
Brumm was born in 1926 in Ironwood, MI and was raised in Marquette, MI. He graduated from Graveraet High School in 1944, where as a freshman in 1941, he and Albert Nadeau won the State of Michigan Tennis doubles championship.
In 1945, he joined the Army in support of World War II. In 1949 he married Frances Buswell of Crystal Falls, MI. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1950 with a BS Degree in physical education. While at Michigan, he lettered in tennis, and was a member of the 1948 Wolverines team that won the school’s first NCAA Ice Hockey National Championship and also participated in the Final Four tournament the following two years.
After graduating from Michigan, Brumm applied for and accepted the coaching job at UAF, not realizing how much he had signed on for.
Following his tenure at UAF, he returned to Michigan in 1953, and worked at Marquette State Prison, a maximum-security facility, as the first athletics and recreation director. In his time as AD, Brumm’s innovation led to what is memorable today as the high point in what some say was the most comprehensive and revolutionary prison sports program in the history of corrections.
In his time at the Marquette State Prison, Brumm was the brainchild of what is probably one of the most unusual hockey games every played by an NHL team.
Gordie Howe and the rest of the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings were two months away from winning their third Stanley Cup in five years when they traveled to the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for an exhibition game against a team of inmates at Marquette Branch Prison.
In addition to the hockey game, Brumm’s creativity produced an 18-hole miniature golf course, shuffleboard courts, and a regulation-sized bocce court. He built a curling rink, formed a football team (which played outside squads), started a Winter Carnival, and staged semiannual field days.
Brumm authored a book about his time in Marquette called, “We Only Played Home Games.” During the 1950′s he was also a player-coach of the semi-pro Marquette Sentinels, winning Marquette’s fist Gibson Cup Championship in 1956.
In 1957, Brumm left employment at the prison to work full-time in his family’s construction business. During the construction off-seasons he continued to be active in sports and served as player-coach of the Des Moines Oak Leafs, the Waterloo Blackhawks and finally the Marquette Iron Rangers over a 15 year period.
Over the years coaching with the Iron Rangers, Brumm played with or against many players who became legends in the sport, including Herb Brooks, coach of the famed 1980 U.S Olympic Hockey Team. The famous Hanson brothers of “Slap Shot” Movie fame got their start under Brumm when they were members of the Marquette Iron Rangers.
From 1968-72, he was part owner, sports director and political columnist of the Marquette Mirror, a sports and politically-oriented weekly newspaper. He also was involved politically as he was elected City Commissioner in Marquette several times.
Brumm held hockey and construction near, and managed to merge the two in the mid-1980s, while working for an international construction company, building roads, bridges and the new Kuwait International Airport. He was the co-founder of the Kuwait National Hockey League.
After four years in the Middle East, Brumm returned to Auburn Hills, Michigan and was named to the Upper Peninsula Hall of Fame in 1992. He continued to coach at the high school level and as the oldest high school hockey coach in the country, led Brookfield High School (Wisconsin) to the state championship “Elite Eight” for the first and only time.
In 2000, Brumm became the owner/editor of a statewide publication, The Wisconsin Hockey News.
His last two years were spent as the rink manager of the Kenosha Ice Arena.
Last Saturday (Oct. 28), memorial services were held for “Oakie” at the Kenosha Ice Arena.
“It is not only a loss for those who knew him, but the sport of hockey as well,” said UAF assistant hockey coach Wade Klippenstein, who had the opportunity to meet Brumm this summer at the UAF Hockey Alumni Reunion, where they were seated together at the head table. “He touched the lives of many and will be remembered for more then just his accomplishments.”
Head echoed Klippenstein’s sentiments.
“On behalf of the UAF Hockey Staff and Alumni, we deeply regret the news of his passing. We feel very fortunate to have gotten to meet him and his family and the chance to know a little about his history at UAF while he was with us this summer. Our hearts go out to his family; we know he will be missed.”
Leonard “Oakie” Brumm is survived by his wife of 56 years, Frances, and their children, Patricia Ruppe of Racine, WI, S. Peter Brumm of Chicago, IL, Perry Brumm (Linda) of Milwaukee, WI, Paulette LaJeunesse (Richard) of Green Bay, WI, Penelope Brumm Edwards (Robert) of Chicago, IL, and Pamela Kissick (William) of Rocklin, CA. He had seven grandchildren as well as numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and grand nieces and nephews.
A scholarship fund has been set up in honor of Brumm, and donations can be made to the “Oakie Brumm Marquette Iron Ranger Hockey Scholarship”. This scholarship will be available for high school hockey players who wish to attend a higher education facility of their choice. Donations should be made out and mailed to OBMIRHS, P.O. Box 352 Oak Creek, WI 53154. Cards for the Brumm family may also be sent to the same address.