BEMIDJI, Minn. – After 55 years of living life to the fullest, early this morning the final horn sounded for former Bemidji State University head women’s hockey coach Bruce Olson. Cancer claimed Olson’s life in a Rochester, Minn. hospital where he had been receiving care for the past two weeks.
Olson took the reigns as the third head coach in BSU women’s hockey history prior to the 2002-03 campaign and continued through the end of the 2005 calendar year. During his tenure at Bemidji State, he led the team to the WCHA postseason in 2003 and 2005, coached the program’s first All-WCHA pick, Amber Fryklund, who ended her playing days as the lone 100-point scorer (122) in school history and retuned to BSU as an assistant coach in 2010. He guided Anik Côté (2003) and Guylaine Haché (2002), who were each named WCHA Student Athlete of the Year, while Côté went on to become just the second athlete in school history to be recognized on the Verizon Academic All-American Team in consecutive seasons, as she was a second team honoree both years. His teams produces three All-WCHA selections, 38 All-WCHA Academic honorees and 12 WCHA Players of the Week. In all he compiled a 27-80-13 record.
Following his time at Bemidji State, Olson moved to Warroad, Minn. to served as co-head coach and later assistant coach of the Warroad High School boy’s hockey team.
Olson came to Bemidji State after a highly-successful career at the high school level which spanned more than two decades. After a four-year playing career at Minnesota, Duluth (1975-79), during which he compiled 35 goals and 58 assist in 137 games, Olson took over the boy’s program at Minot High School in Minot, N.D. He directed Minot High to a pair of North Dakota state runner-up finishes in 1985 and 1987, and was named North Dakota Hockey Coach of the Year in 1987.
In 1991, Olson left Minot to take over the varsity boy’s program at Roseau High School. During his run at Roseau, Olson earned Minnesota 8AA Coach of the Year honors twice (1996 and 1999), was named State Coach of the Year in 1999 and led Roseau to the 1999 state championship. Olson’s 1999 state championship team was the sixth state champion in Roseau history. In addition, Olson’s 1999 team won state Academic Champion honors.
Olson took a one-year leave of absence from Roseau in 1999-00, spending that year working on a master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of North Dakota. During that year, Olson also took over head coaching duties for the UND women’s ice hockey club team. He helped set the stage for the elevation of the North Dakota club program to NCAA varsity status; UND make their debut at the Division I level in the 2002-03 season.
During his prep coaching career, Olson directed 14 players who went on to Division I playing careers, nine of which played for North Dakota.
A celebration of Olson's life will be held Saturday at 12:00 p.m. in the Roseau High School Gymnasium. Anyone wishing to share memories is welcome to join the family at the Warroad Estates Golf Course Friday beginning at 7:00 p.m.