BIRTHPLACE: Minneapolis, Minn.
BORN: September 10, 1893
DIED: June 1, 1974
TEAMS/ASSOCIATIONS: Eveleth High School
Legendary coach Cliff Thompson guided Eveleth High School from 1920 until his retirement in 1958. During that time his teams won an amazing 534 games, while losing only 26 and tying just nine. The highlight of Thompson’s career came during the years 1948-51, when his Golden Bears won 78 straight games, including four straight Minnesota state high school hockey championships. Eveleth won the state title a total of five times under Thompson’s leadership.
Simultaneous to his high school coaching, Thompson also handled the Eveleth Junior College team, compiling a career record of 171 games won and 28 lost. In fact, his Junior College squad even garnered the nation’s top collegiate ranking on several occasions during the late 1920s, even beating out the likes of Minnesota, Michigan, and Yale.
Generations of Eveleth youngsters received hockey instructions from Cliff Thompson, and in addition to his giving them the best hockey leadership, he was the object of deep affection that only boys can have for a man as close to them as their coach and teacher. Many stories are told how Thompson helped dozens of youngsters get a good pair of skates during the depression. And when it came to equipment for his players, he was a stickler for the very best available. Eveleth’s claim to hockey fame can be traced to Cliff Thompson’s efforts in player development. No less than 11 Eveleth players went on to perform in the National Hockey League, and virtually all of them learned the game from Thompson. Foremost among them were Frank Brimsek, Mike Karakas, Sam LoPresti, and John Mariucci—all Hall of Famers. Other outstanding Thompson-developed players who went on to college and National/Olympic Team stardom were John Mayasich, John Matchefts, and Willard Ikola, who are also each in the Hall of Fame as well.
Thompson was honored in 1951 with a trophy dedication at the Minneapolis Sportsman’s Show for his coaching record and efforts in training hockey players in good citizenship, as well as athletics. He was made an honorary member of the American Hockey Coaches Association in 1957, one of only a handful of men ever so honored.