1964 – Tom Wheeler
I am extremely grateful for my hockey experiences at Hamilton. Just prior to my senior year in high school, I was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic with a heart murmur, and advised to refrain from any more competitive sports. My high school, Duluth East, was rated #1 in hockey-crazy Minnesota. The Mayo admonition did not sit well; I became so depressed, my mother actually completed my college applications: only Middlebury and Hamilton, as I withdrew prior applications to Harvard, Dartmouth, etc. I ultimately was given permission to play my senior year, but the thinking was to consider smaller colleges, where the competition would be less intense. Hamilton won out over Middlebury, as I had friends and hockey teammates at Middlebury, and not being able to play while watching them play would have been difficult. Basically then, Hamilton won by default: I had never been there, knew no one there, and the only 2 boys I’d known from Duluth who’d ever attended Hamilton had both flunked out. Actually, a family friend had brought the Hamilton recruiter for a “house call” during my depression; it helped.
When I arrived in fall of 1964, I was given a green light to play by the college physician at the time, Dr. Leon Rowe, aka “death row”. The rest of the story is that Hamilton did not have 3 lines until my senior year.
Greg Batt was not only my coach, but he became like a second father to me. I truly loved the man. He taught me countless little tricks, inspired me, and helped a revival of Hamilton hockey.
I had the good fortune, as the leading American-born scorer in the ECAC, to be the “cover boy” for the 1968 NCAA Hockey Rulebook. That, in turn, led to playing professionally in Europe. In Salzburg, Austria, I led the league in scoring; while playing for Tyringe, Sweden, I scored a “Dynamo” hat trick: 3 goals each against Dynamo Moscow, Dynamo Berlin, and Dynamo Weisswasser; I also scored the first goal in Tyringe’s new arena. I learned to speak both German and Swedish fluently…and still do.
The heart murmur did ultimately catch up with me, prompting my return to the USA and a successful transition to a business career. Hamilton hockey and my Hamilton education opened many doors for me. I am, again, ever so grateful.
– Tom Wheeler