Legendary Art Berglund helped to shape hockey

Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
berglund hof

A legendary figure in the world of hockey who carried a love of his hometown wherever he went has died.

Art Berglund, a well-known hockey legend both at home and in the U.S., where he is remembered for spending years helping to build the sport, died Saturday, December 19 in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was 80 years old.

The news of Berglund’s passing was shared by the Fort Frances Sports Hall of Fame, where Berglund served both as an inspiration and a two-time honoree, having been inducted as part of the Hall’s inaugural class in 2015 for his individual contributions, and then again in 2017 as a member of the team that won the 1959 Manitoba Schoolboy Curling Champions, alongside teammates Peter McLeod, Bob Grattan and Leonard McQuarrie. Due to an injury at the time of his induction, Berglund was unable to attend his second ceremony in person, though he was patched into the festivities via FaceTime.

In its email sharing Berglund’s passing, the Sports Hall of Fame committee celebrated Berglund for his influence and his longtime love for his hometown.

“Art was the inspiration for our local hall of fame,” the release read.

“After being inducted to several prestigious halls of fame, Art made the following statement: ‘Don’t get me wrong, this is all very nice, but do you know where I’d really like my picture hung? Fort Frances!’”

In addition to finally having his picture hung in the town’s own Sports Hall of Fame, Berglund was also honoured with inductions into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006, the Colorado Springs Hall of Fame in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. Additionally, Berglund was also awarded the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Lester Patrick Award in 1992 in recognition of his “outstanding service to hockey in the United States” according to a statement released by the league in recognition of his death.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman noted in a release on NHL.com that without Bergland, the game of hockey in the United States would likely been left sorely lacking in talent and scope.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Art Berglund, one of the true builders of the game in the U.S. for more than 40 years,” Bettman said.

“So many NHL players have had the opportunity to star on the world hockey stage playing for their country because of the passion, dedication and commitment that Art brought to USA Hockey. We owe him a large debt of gratitude for his countless contributions to the growth and development of the game at all levels. The game has lost a dear friend.”

While Berglund got his start in Fort Frances, his professional playing career brought him to Switzerland and Austria before he returned to the States to take a job at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, where he served as a manager for 13 years. During that time Berglund also managed the 1973, 1974 and 1975 national teams, and took on his first Olympic team assignment in 1976, when he served as the general manager. He was also appointed to the Olympic team again in 1988 and was serving as the director of player personnel for the men’s Olympic team when they won the silver medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Berglund also served as the general manager for the United States National Junior Team eight times, including the first official team in 1977. (Though the U.S. sent teams to World Junior tournaments in 1974 and 1975, those tournaments and the one held in 1976 are not considered official by the IIHF.)

Apart from Olympic hockey, in the 1970’s and ’80’s Berglund also served as a scout for the St. Louis Blues and the director of player recruitment for the Colorado Rockies, the former NHL team that eventually became the New Jersey Devils in 1982.

As part of the USA Hockey organization, Berglund was named the director of national teams and international activities in 1984, a role he served in for 11 years before becoming the senior director of international administration in 1996. Berglund retired from his full-time work for the organization in 2005, but continued to serve as a consultant to the international department of USA Hockey for several more years. USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher expressed his condolences over Berglund’s passing and underlined his significance to the greater world of the sport of hockey.

“Art’s passing is mourned not only by USA Hockey, but the entire hockey world,” Kelleher said.

“His influence on both American hockey and the international game was profound and his charisma and passion will never be forgotten. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his entire family, but especially his step-daughters Jossie and Cathy and his niece Linda.”