UND great Bill Reichart, captain of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, dies at age 86
Reichart was the first hockey player to be inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame and he still holds the school record for most points in a game.
Sometimes, people asked Bill Reichart whether he played hockey.
His response was always short.
"A little bit," he'd say.
Reichart was too humble to tell the whole story.
"I would have to tell them that he captained the 1964 Olympic team," his wife, Betty, said.
Reichart, one of the greatest hockey players to ever come through UND, died unexpectedly in his sleep Friday night at the age of 86 at his home in Southern Pines, N.C.
"He was very focused and very personable," his stepdaughter Kim Van Der Heiden said. "He had a mischievous sense about him as in a very good sense of humor. He would always take a big interest in people and ask questions of people and make them feel good. He also was very modest."
That was especially the case when he described his hockey career.
He did more than play "a little bit."
Reichart was a forward at UND from 1954-57, serving as team captain as a senior. He is one of just two players in program history to be named first-team All-American three times (the other is defenseman Bill Steenson, one of his former teammates).
Reichart led UND in both goals and points during three consecutive seasons. Nobody has pulled off that feat since. To this day, he holds the program record for most points in a single game. He tallied nine (seven goals, two assists) against Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 29, 1954.
He was the first hockey player to be inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame. Reichart was part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1975, which also included other UND athletics legends such as Fritz Pollard and Red Jarrett.
"This summer, we sat on the deck a lot and he talked a lot about the hockey games, his roommates, his friends. . . he had very good memories from the University of North Dakota," Betty said. "They were all positive."
Coach Fido Purpur recruited Reichart to UND.
"He was always very thankful," Kim said. "Without the scholarship, he wouldn't have been able to go to the university. He had a couple of other choices, but the University of North Dakota was close to home for him and he never regretted it."
Captain of the Olympic team
The Winnipeg native became an American citizen in 1963 and chose to represent the U.S. in international play.
In 1964, Reichart tried out for the U.S. national team ahead of the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. He joined the pre-Olympic tour late, but after one game, they named him captain. His teammates at the 1964 Games included Herb Brooks, Warroad's Billy and Roger Christian, and UND's Don Ross and Tom Yurkovich.
Reichart led the U.S. Olympic team in scoring with 10 points in eight games.
Sports Illustrated wrote a lengthy feature on Reichart before those Olympics, describing the complexities for amateur athletes. Reichart worked at IBM in Rochester, Minn., and had to take time off of work to play.
"I don't think I would have tried out for the U.S. team if this had not been an Olympic year," Reichart told Sports Illustrated. "It takes too much time. I couldn't afford it. But the Olympics are different. They're worth the sacrifice and the effort."
Reichart, who remained at IBM in Rochester for 30 years, had three children — Renee, Ron and Wendy. Ron played hockey at Colorado College.
Rekindling a love for hockey
Bill and Betty married in 1982 and moved to North Carolina in 1992. Reichart was a founding member of Forest Creek Golf Club, and he was an excellent golfer.
In 1994, at the age of 59, he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at Pinehurst. When he was 68 years old, he shot his age, finishing a round with a score of 68.
Reichart re-kindled his love for hockey when the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997.
"He really seemed to enjoy that," Kim said. "He had a local team to cheer for. I would call him, and they'd be like, 'Gotta go, the hockey game is on.'"
Betty said: "When he watched a hockey game, he knew the condition of the ice by the way the puck was rolling. He could tell how the ice was. He could also call out the referees, and say, 'that was only 50-50.' It was always interesting. He could watch and he knew everything."
Reichart long had heart-related health issues, his family said. He had been managing them well, though.
The last thing Reichart did before going to bed Friday night was watch the Hurricanes play against the Philadelphia Flyers. He insisted on watching to the postgame interviews before falling asleep.
"Watching a hockey game was the last thing he did before he went to bed and passed away," Kim said. "It was a swan song. We figure he planned it that way."