Sixty dollars. That’s how much Art Berglund’s dream cost.
The year was 1959 and Berglund was a 19-year-old budding hockey player who needed $60 from his mother for a flight from International Falls to Colorado Springs, Colo.
The task was a difficult one, though. After all $60 back then was the equivalent of about $1,000 now and his mother asked, “Why are you going?”
“Well, I’m going down there to go to school [Colorado College] and they’ve got a hockey team down there,” Berglund replied.
“Ah, where’s that hockey every going to get you, Art?” his mother rebutted.
Well, it’s been almost a half-century since Mrs. Berglund gave her son the $60 he needed for that plane ticket and it was well worth the investment.
Berglund, now 64, has been part of USA Hockey for more than 30 years, but his long stint will come to an end June 30 when he retires from his position as the organization’s senior director of international administration.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have made a living doing something that many people consider as being a hobby,” said Berglund.
“It’s brought me all over the world and I’ve spent a lot of time in airplanes and in hotels, but it’s been great. I mean, I smiled every time I stepped into the office,” said Berglund, who was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Hockey Hall of Fame in Thunder Bay back in September.
It’s not like he’ll just pack up his things and that will be that, however. Berglund plans to remain with USA Hockey on a part-time basis as a consultant to the international department.
But why retire now?
“I just want to spend more time with my wife, and travel, and I just want to have more time for myself,” said Berglund, who has been married to his second wife, Charlotte, since 1997.
“I want to do it now so that I can enjoy it.”
And you can bet your left shoe the Fort Frances native will be missed.
“Art has played a major role in the growth and development of hockey in the United States,” said USA Hockey president Ron DeGregorio.
“We thank him for his tremendous service over the years and wish him the very best in his retirement,” DeGregorio added.
When asked if he’s amazed how far hockey has come in the U.S., Berglund recalled a memory from his early days with the organization that consisted of just two people.
“It began as a shoe box operation,” he noted. “Bob Johnson and I ran the Olympic team out of his garage in Wisconsin and now we have 70 employees.”
You must take pride in that?
“Oh, you bet, but I’m not egotistical about it because it took a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get things done,” noted Berglund, who was awarded the prestigious Lester Patrick Award (recognition of outstanding contributions to the sport of ice hockey in America) in 1992 by the NHL.
You’ve been involved with USA Hockey for over 30 years and have collected many memories in that time span, but is there one that sticks out over the rest?
“Being in attendance when we won the gold medal in Lake Placid was pretty special,” Berglund answered without much hesitation when asked if one particular memory over the years stood out.
“And the thing that really stands out now is the growth of the game in the States, and how we don’t have to expect miracles anymore,” he added.
After playing for Colorado College, Berglund, who was a 5’10”, 185-pound forward, joined the professional circuit in Switzerland and Austria for a short time.
When his playing days ended in the 1960s, his career with the administrative side began when he was hired by the legendary William Thayer Tutt (instrumental in bringing the first Soviet teams to the U.S. for competition) to work at the famous Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.
Berglund went on to manage the Broadmoor World Arena for 13 years, during which time he served USA Hockey in a variety of capacities. He managed the U.S. national teams from 1973-’75, then accepted his first Olympic assignment as general manager for the ’76 squad.
After that, Berglund headed to the NHL, where he was a scout for the St. Louis Blues under the likes Scotty Bowman, whom he is still “really good friends with.”
He later was named director of player recruitment by the now-defunct Colorado Rockies.
Then in 1977, he was named general manager of the first U.S. national junior team, holding that position again in ’81, ’86-’87, and ’89-’92.
The ’80s and ’90s were filled with senior-level international assignments. For instance, Berglund took on the general managerial duties for the ’85-’87 and ’89-’91 U.S. national teams, as well as the ’88 Olympic squad.
He also was the assistant general manager for the ’81 and ’91 U.S. teams at the Canada Cup, as well as the ’83 U.S. national team.
He chaired the ’84 U.S. Olympic player selection committee and was director of player personal for the ’92 and ’94 U.S. Olympic teams.
He also oversaw the organization of the U.S. national team that captured bronze at the 1996 IIHF World Championships in Vienna, Austria, and was general manager of the ’98 U.S. select team.
And as director of player personnel, Berglund helped engineer the silver-medal showing by the 2002 U.S. Olympic men’s team in Salt Lake City.
Not bad for someone who hoped “to become a teacher in the U.S. and also do some coaching—hockey as you might have guessed,” as written by Jim Graham of the Denver Post in a story on Berglund in 1963 when he was one of the top players for Colorado College.
“The 22-year-old icer from Fort Frances, Ontario could hardly be rated as a fast skater or a hard shooter, but simple and out-and-out hustle puts him in the right spot at the right time,” the story added.
But being in the “right spot at the right time” wouldn’t have been possible if not for that $60 plane ticket.
Sixty dollars. That’s how much Art Berglund’s dream cost.