Willard Ikola

Once upon a time there was a little town called Eveleth, Minnesota. The people in this snowy town produced two things. Iron ore, and hockey players. Especially goalies.

In the 1930s 99% of the jobs in the National Hockey League were held by Canadians. Among the six goaltending jobs in the league at that time 2 were held by Eveleth High School graduates - Frank Brimsek in Boston and Mike Karakas in Chicago. And when Karakas left Chicago another Eveleth grad took his job - Sam LoPresti.

There was another all time great goalie to come out of Eveleth, albeit a few years later. He never played in the NHL, but he was a USA national team stalwart and Olympic star in 1956. His name was Willard Ikola, but everyone knew him as Ike.

Ikola was born and raised in Eveleth. He donned the pads because his brother Roy was also a goalie (representing USA at the 1948 Olympics). But Willard patterned his game very purposefully after Sam LoPresti.

Ikola led Eveleth to state titles in 1948, 1949 and 1950. He then moved on to the University of Michigan where he won two national titles and played in a third championship game.

He backstopped the 1956 U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal in Cortina, Italy, and was named the tournament’s outstanding goalie.

After the Olympics Ikola turned down offers to turn professional. Instead he became the head coach at Edina. He guided the Hornets for 33 seasons, winning eight state championships and 616 games.

After retiring as the high school head coach he served as a scout for the New York Islanders.

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