Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Raised ten miles for the Canadian border in Roseau, Minnesota, where hockey is a way of life, Bryan "Butsy" Erickson played his high school hockey for the Roseau Rams on a line with his neighbors and future NHLers, Neal and Aaron Broten. So successful were the trio, with an undefeated 23-0 regular season record, that they were featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" section.
Erickson with Roseau teammate Neal Broten
"It was really surreal," said Erickson. "I didn't really know we were doing anything special. We just played because it was fun."
So good was the high schooler, that he was selected to play for the United States at the 1979 World Junior Tournament along with the Broten brothers, where Erickson would score 2 goals and 3 points in 5 games on his international debut.
The fun continued as the trio took their show on the road down to the Twin Cities where they joined the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey program, Neal in 1978-79 and Bryan and Aaron in 1979-80 while Neal was away with the United States Olympic Team. Bryan's freshman season saw him play in 23 games, scoring 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points. Byran also was selected for his second World Junior Tournament in 1980, where he scored 4 points in 4 games for the United States.
With the line now reunited for 1980-81 with the return of Neal, the trio lit up scoreboards wherever they played, as Neal scored 17 goals and 71 points, Erickson 39 goals and 86 points, while Aaron led the league in goals (47), assists (59) and points, with 106, as Aaron, Steve Ulseth (93 points) and Erickson (86) led a Gophers 1-2-3 finish in the scoring race, with Neal 5th.
Erickson left his opponents in his wake during his time with the Golden Gophers
While Neal and Aaron moved on to the NHL following the Gophers season, Erickson returned to Minnesota for his junior season in 1981-82, with the assistant captain scoring 25 goals and 45 points. While his totals were down considerably from the previous year, they were enough to lead the Gophers in scoring and earn a nomination as a Hobey Baker Award finalist as the best college hockey player in the United States.
Following the season, he would make his World Championships debut, scoring a goal and an assist for the Americans in 1982.
Back with Minnesota for his senior season, Erickson, now team captain, regained his scoring touch from two seasons earlier, netting 35 goals and 47 assists for 82 points, which earned him All-WCHA honors and a second Hobey Baker nomination. He would finish his college career as the second all-time leading scorer in Minnesota history with 238 points, which 28 years later still ranks fourth.
Minnesota Senior captain Erickson
Undrafted, Erickson signed with the Washington Capitals organization and then played one regular season game with the Hershey Bears of the AHL and three playoff games, where he scored three goals.
in 1983-84, he played 31 games with the Bears and then made his NHL debut with the Capitals, where he saw action in 45 games, scoring 12 times and adding 17 assists, which included scoring his first NHL goal on this date in 1984 in a 4-2 Capitals win over the Los Angeles Kings. He also added a pair of goals and 3 assists in 8 playoff games.
His international career reached a high point when he was named to the US team for the 1984 Canada Cup tournament, which took place prior to the start of the NHL regular season and featured the best players from each of the participating countries. In 6 games, Erickson scored 2 goals and 2 assists, including a goal against Sweden assisted by Neal Broten and a goal in a 4-4 tie against Canada assisted by Aaron Broten, while his two assists were both on goals by Neal.
"Playing in the Canada Cup was a huge thrill for me. Five years earlier I didn't even know if I was going to play hockey after high school. I ended up going to Minnesota, and I graduated in '83 and the next year I'm playing with the best players in the world," he recalled.
Erickson's 1984-85 season was split between the Capitals, where he played 57 games, scoring 15 goals, and the Binghamton Whalers, where he played 13 games. After starting the following season with Binghamton, Erickson was traded late in October to Los Angeles.
Now with the Kings organization, Erickson spent 14 games with the New Haven Nighthawks and the majority of his season with Los Angeles, where in 55 games he had his first 20 goal season on his way to 43 points. With the Kings not qualifying for the playoffs, Erickson was free to join the United States for the 1986 World Championships, where he had a fine tournament with 8 goals in 10 games.
He hit exactly 20 goals again in 1986-87 for the Kings and completed his season with 30 assists for a career best 50 points. Following Los Angeles early playoff exit, Erickson was back to Europe for the 1987 World Championships, scoring 8 points in 10 games.
Erickson's 1987-88 season saw him play 42 games with the Kings and 3 with New Haven prior to a trade which sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins in early February. He would play 11 games in Pittsburgh, which brought to a close the first phase of his NHL career.
The following season saw Erickson take his game to Italy with HC Merano where he showed his NHL caliber talent with 38 goals and 94 points in just 38 games.
His 1989-90 season was an abbreviated one, with just 13 games with the Moncton Hawks of the AHL. 1990-91 saw Erickson back with Moncton, playing in 36 games, scoring 32 points which included 18 goals. He would also make his return to the NHL with 6 games with the Winnipeg Jets.
Abdominal surgery would shorten his 1991-92 season, which was limited to just 10 games with the Jets. He would return for the 1992-93 season, seeing the ice 41 times for Winnipeg. Injuries once again spoiled his final season, as groin problems limited Erickson to 3 games with Moncton and just 16 games with the Jets, brining to an end his 11 year career, with 351 games, 80 goals and 205 points to his credit.
Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Roseau Rams Bryan "Butsy" Erickson jersey. This classic jersey with it's diagonal team name and simple dual white stripes was worn by not only Erickson, but also linemates and future NHLers Neal and Aaron Broten.
The Rams hockey tradition dates back to 1908 and has won seven Minnesota state hockey championships in 33 state appearances since 1945. Originally known as the Green Wave, they won their first championship in 1946 before they changed their name to the Rams in the 1950's, winning three titles in four years in 1958, 1959 and 1961.
In addition to Erickson and the two older Broten brothers, Neal and Aaron, their younger brother Paul Broten also played for the Rams and went onto a career in the NHL.
Additional state titles arrived in 1990, 1999 and 2007.
During their long and storied history, Roseau, the tiny community near the Canadian border has sent nine players onto the NHL, including current Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien, and seven Rams players have competed for the United States in the Olympics. In addition to Neal and Aaron Broten, longtime coach Oscar Almquist all have been inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
Despite it's enrollment of just 393 students, Roseau has opted to play in Class AA for the larger schools in a continuing effort to be the giant killers and overall state champions, going up against competition from large Twin Cities metro area powerhouses, who have enrollments between 1,300 to 3,100 students to draw players from. The next smallest AA schools are private schools with enrollments of 800 and the next largest public AA school has an enrollment of 978, making Roseau by far the smallest school in the "large" class.
To purchase a Roseau Rams jersey for yourself, please see our friends at VintageMinnesotaHockey.com.
As usual, if you go looking for video of an older hockey player, goals and nearly impossible to find, but the fights are plentiful.
Here is a look at hockey in tiny Roseau, which includes an appearance by Erickson.