UND hockey legend and Olympic medalist Gordon Christian dies at 89

GRAND FORKS - Gordon 'Ginny' Christian, one of the University of North Dakota's original hockey legends and a silver medalist on the 1956 Olympic team, died Friday at the age of 89.Christian, a fixture at UND hockey games throughout his life, was...
Gordon 'Ginny' Christian

GRAND FORKS - Gordon 'Ginny' Christian, one of the University of North Dakota's original hockey legends and a silver medalist on the 1956 Olympic team, died Friday at the age of 89.

Christian, a fixture at UND hockey games throughout his life, was one of the program's most influential players, helping vault it onto the national scene in just its second year of existence in 1948 with a stunning 6-5 upset over powerhouse Michigan. Christian had two goals in that game.

He later played on two U.S. World Championship teams and the 1956 Olympic squad, which won silver in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Christian, of Warroad, Minn., was one of three Olympic medal-winning brothers. His younger brothers, Roger and Bill, were on the 1960 gold medal U.S. squad.

"He was very proud of being from Warroad," his son, Gordy, said. "He was very proud of being an Olympian. He was very proud of being a Fighting Sioux hockey player. And he was very proud of his family."

Christian was the first-ever member of the Century Club at UND, scoring 100 career points. He did it in just three seasons, tallying 105 from 1947-50.

After graduation, he stayed closely in touch with the UND program.

Not only was he a fixture at home games, Christian and his wife, Emma, also frequented UND's weekly fan luncheons on Fridays and annually rode Al and Joanna Pearson's bus to the St. Cloud State road series.

"I still remember him keeping us up, telling stories until 2 a.m. in St. Cloud," Joanna said. "He was a lot of fun and his stories were priceless."

Gordy said that his father became friends with UND hockey players from all eras-from Reg Morelli in the 1950s to Lefty Curran in the 1960s to Paul Chadwick in the 1970s to Cary Eades in the 1980s to Dave Hakstol in the 1990s. His great nephew, Brock Nelson, also played for UND from 2010-12, and he met many of Nelson's teammates.

"He loved everything about the place and being part of the Fighting Sioux hockey family," Gordy said. "And that was exemplified by Brad Berry coming up to Roseau to visit him and my mom a couple days ago. Mom thought that was pretty special.

"He just really enjoyed the way the coaching staff-from Hak to Cary to Brad-treated him and his era of players. The coaches haven't forgotten where it started. He thought that was pretty cool. I know they don't do that in all the other programs."

Christian was a popular figure in the hockey world.

When Warroad used to hold its annual celebrity golf tournament in the summers, he would have golfers over to his house. They included Herb Brooks, Lou Nanne, Gino Gasparini and even Gordie Howe came once.

"I think he had a lot of friends because he's really, really warm and enjoyed people," Gordy said. "He just really enjoyed people and he was fun to be around, especially when our family-and the hockey family-got together. It was really fun to be around all that-and dad was right in the middle of it."

When the 1980 Miracle on Ice team was doing a pre-Olympic tour, it made a stop in Hibbing, Minn., for a game. Christian attended and watched his nephew, Dave, play on the team.

After the game, Brooks told Christian that he wasn't sure where to play Dave. Christian suggested trying him on defense.

"I don't know if that's the reason why they moved him to defense, but he had Herby's ear," Gordy said. "Eventually, he did move him later in the season. The rest is history."