BEMIDJI, Minn. -- When most people in the hockey world hear “Bemidji State University Hockey,” one name comes to mind - R.H. “Bob” Peters. The long-time coach and architect of Beaver Hockey, along with his wife, Lou, were honored this weekend for being a part of the Bemidji, Minn. community for 50 years and their tireless dedication to Bemidji State University and Beaver Hockey.
Nearly 85 Beaver Hockey alumni stretching from 1966-2001 made their way back to Bemidji to honor the long-time BSU coach and participate in a number of receptions, tours of BSU hockey’s home, Sanford Center, photos and to time to catch up with former teammates and Peters. The culminating event of the weekend was a ceremonial puck drop by Peters, which drew an extended standing ovation form the more than 3,300 in attendance.
Peters took over the small-college Bemidji State University hockey program in 1966. Within two seasons he led BSU to its first national championship and set the foundation for what would become one of the most dominant programs in college hockey.
Thirty-five years later, Peters retired from coaching with one of the most impressive lists of achievements in the history of collegiate sports - 744 victories as a head coach, 702 coming at Bemidji State alone to make Peters the first coach to win 700 or more games at a single school, 13 small-college national championships, and still-standing national collegiate records for most wins in an unbeaten season (31-0-0 in 1983-’84) and longest unbeaten streak (43 games from Nov. 8, 1983 to Jan. 1, 1985). Today, only four coaches in the sport have won more games at the collegiate level.
Peters, the only coach to lead a team to a national championship game in three divisions of college hockey and the only coach to reach the Final Four in all four divisions (Division I, III, III and NAIA), developed five NHL players and numerous Olympians and more than 50 All-Americans.
A 1960 graduate of the University of North Dakota, Peters spent his collegiate days at goaltender for UND. He coached at the high school level for one season before rejoining the UND staff as an assistant coach.
Retired from coaching, Peters remains heavily involved in the sport of college hockey. From April of 2001 to July of 2008 Peters was the commissioner of College Hockey America conference. Peters continues to provide support to the Bemidji State athletic department. He announced his retirement from the BSU faculty in 2003 but remains with the University in an outreach role with the BSU Foundation.
Peters’ influence on college hockey also has stretched outside the arena. He has proven his administrative skills at Bemidji State by serving as athletic director and head hockey coach, and he lent service to several committees. Under Peters’ guidance, BSU hockey progressed from NAIA to NCAA Division III to NCAA Division II, and in 1999, BSU elevated its hockey program to Division I. He served on championship committees for the NAIA and NCAA for over 20 years, and in 2001 was named a Hobey Baker Legend of Hockey.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.