Bruce Olson, the Minot High School boys hockey coach from 1981-91, died early Tuesday just months after being diagnosed with pancreatic and colon cancer.
Olson, who led the Magicians to nine straight state tournaments and their first state runner-up in 1985, died at the age of 55 in Rochester, Minn., where he was receiving care, according to an obituary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Matthew Morelli played for two seasons under Olson and remembers a strict, young coach who demanded much from his teams.
"I didn't realize how good a coach he was until I was done playing for him," Morelli said. "He always had the kids' best interest, even though he was hard and didn't pull any punches."
Olson took the coaching job in his hometown at Roseau (Minn.) High School in 1991 and the Magicians won their only state title the following winter. Olson had success with the Rams, leading Roseau to a state title in 1999. In 2000, he took a year off to work on a master's degree in educational leadership at the University of North Dakota, according to uscho.com, a collegiate hockey site.
In 2002, Olson moved on to Bemidji State University and coached the women's program for three full seasons. His next stop was at Warroad (Minn.) High School, coaching future NHL player T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues) and recent New York Islanders signee Brock Nelson. Both players starred at the University of North Dakota.
MHS is still the only West Region team to win the state tournament and Morelli credits Olson with advancing the program after Dean Blais' three-year stint.
"He made people aware of Minot hockey a little more in the mid-80s," said Morelli, who also played for UND. "He brought a level of toughness and he didn't care who you were. All the good guys are like that.
"You kind of hate him to a certain point - not so strong as the word - and you ride out the tough times and it seemed at the end you couldn't wait to see him and shake his hand."
Olson graduated from Minnesota-Duluth in 1979 after notching 35 goals and 58 assists in 137 games.