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Impassioned letter from Belfour helps get 1987 UND hockey champs back together

GRAND FORKS, N.D.—A couple of weeks ago, Ed Belfour sent an impassioned plea to his former teammates to make it to Grand Forks this weekend.

He remarked that after his Hockey Hall of Fame career that included a Stanley Cup, he still considers the 1986-87 UND team as special as any team he's ever been on.

He reminded them that three of their teammates—Scott Brower, Perry Nakonechny and Scott Dub—have passed away. And he said he and others have had some health setbacks.

"He said that, hey, we're all mortals here," teammate Jeff Bowen said. "Who knows how many more guys are going to be gone by the next time we have an opportunity to get together. So, if you can, please make a great effort to get there.

"It was a very eloquent email."

His teammates responded, and they're expecting to have the largest gathering of the famed 1986-87 Hrkac Circus NCAA national championship team this weekend in Grand Forks.

In addition to the six who have made Grand Forks their home—Bowen, Steve Johnson, Tarek Howard, Scott Koberinski, Mike LaMoine and Grant Paranica—others are driving or flying in.

Belfour will be there. Tony Hrkac will be there. Ian Kidd will be there. Lee Davidson will be there. Mickey Krampotich will be there. Gary Kaiser. Brent Bobyck. Darryn Fossand. Tom Benson. Rick Forst.

In all, they are expecting about 18 players from that team to come to the two-day celebration that will culminate at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday night.

"Eddie's email was really moving," Howard said. "The thing that struck me was that after all those years he played in the NHL—he had great success, won a Stanley Cup—that he described that year as the closest team he ever played on. I thought that was pretty neat coming from Eddie."

Former teammate Scott Koberinski said: "Quite honestly, he's a pretty loyal guy. No one was really responding and he was trying to take the lead on it say, hey, listen guys, let's make this happen. He said it was the most memorable team he's been on. He's in the Hockey Hall of Fame and he still says that '87 team was one of the most fun and memorable years."

The 1987 team still holds the NCAA record for most wins in a season with 40. And Hrkac holds the NCAA record for most points in a season with 116.

That UND team won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title, postseason title and the NCAA national title.

Along the way, UND reached the Frozen Four by sweeping St. Lawrence in a regional. St. Lawrence is in town to play UND at 7:37 Friday night and 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The 1987 team will attend both games, play a recreational game on Saturday afternoon and be recognized Saturday night on the ice.

"A lot of people ask what's the most memorable about that year, and a lot of people think it was the winning we did," Koberinski said. "But it really was the camaraderie. We went everywhere together. We did everything together. It didn't matter if it was going to a movie, going bowling, going to a party, everyone always went together. It wasn't seniors versus freshmen. It was one big team. People really don't understand that chemistry that you build and how it goes a long way in winning and losing."

Howard said: "It was quite a year. The one thing about that group that seemed a little different for me is that it didn't matter if you were a senior or a freshman. Everyone kind of hung out together. It had a different feel than previous years."

Some members still can't make it—star forward Bob Joyce is coaching in Florida—but most will be there along with members of the coaching staff.

On the ice, their accolades will be read by the public address announcer. But off the ice, they'll recall all of the things that made the 1987 team unique.

"The biggest thing I remember is that everyone was equal," Bowen said. "The coaches treated everyone as equals, whether it was the guys like Hrk, Belfour or Joyce or the blue-collar guys like me and Nako. Nobody felt better than anyone else. It was the weirdest damn thing. I've been part of hockey for 30-plus years and I've never been part of a group like that."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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