GRAND FORKS – Bob May spent only two seasons coaching the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team. But they were two memorable years, and they also helped shape one of the country’s top college hockey programs.
May, who had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, died Sunday. He was 87 and living in Plymouth, Minn.
May was the UND coach during the 1957-58 and
1958-59 seasons. In both seasons, he led UND to the national title game. In his second season, UND won its first national title – a 4-3 overtime win over favored Michigan State.
“He raised the bar,” said Reg Morelli, who played for May and scored the game-winning goal against Michigan State in Troy, N.Y. “He was like a father-coach.”
Morelli said May’s strength was his ability to calmly motivate his players.
“He could motivate you like you wouldn’t believe,” said Morelli. “He was very calm on the bench. You never heard a ‘gosh, golly, or gee whiz.’ He never swore. He respected everyone.”
May’s ability to motivate his players stood out, especially against Michigan State in the 1958-59 national final.
“They were so big,” Morelli said of Michigan State. “They averaged about 6-foot-2, 6-3 on defense. They were big and you couldn’t move them. Bob just said, ‘Keep shooting the puck and keep them off balance. Don’t even try to beat them because they’re so big.’ He was always prepared.
“He only talked about how we can do it.”
Michigan State led 1-0 after the first period, but UND scored three times in the second. And Morelli, who was named the tournament MVP, scored the game-winner four minutes into overtime.
May left UND after the 1958-59 season.
He entered dental school in 1960 and later served as the Minnesota North Stars’ team dentist from 1968 to 1983. He also invented the first custom-fit mouthpiece for hockey players.
Before taking the UND coaching job, May coached the Wayzata, Minn., boys high school team in 1954-1955 and the Minneapolis Roosevelt team from 1955-1957. In 1994, he started and coached the girls’ squad at Wayzata High School.
Last year, he was among the charter inductees into the Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
May also played at UND during the 1949-50 and 1950-51 seasons, appearing in 47 games as a defenseman and serving as team captain in his final season. May received his bachelor’s degree from UND in 1951.
“As both a player and coach, Bob May had a major impact on the University of North Dakota hockey program. His contributions truly make him a builder of the success, history and tradition of our program,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “Beyond hockey, he was highly respected in both his career in dentistry, as well as a tremendous family man. He will be greatly missed.”
He is a dual inductee into the UND Letterwinners Association Hall of Fame, having been recognized in 1981 as an individual and in 2002 with his national championship team.
“More than anything, he was a member of UND and carried relationships with many former players and coaches,” Dr. Zach Eakman, May’s grandson, wrote in an email Monday to the UND athletics office. “My grandpa (‘papa,’ as I call him) wore his championship ring from the day he got it until the day he passed.”
May also was an author, whose books include: “The Hockey Drill Book,” “The Hockey Road: From High School, to College, to Pro,” and “Girls Hockey in Minnesota; Where To Go From Here?”
A retired colonel in the Army, May was married for 64 years.