John Noah, UND’s first All-American hockey player and first Olympic medalist, died this morning in Fargo.
Noah played at UND from 1948-51, joining the team during the program’s second-ever season. Noah, who was born in Crookston, won a silver medal at the 1952 Olympic Games in Oslo, Norway.
Noah had stayed connected to the North Dakota hockey program throughout the years. Here’s a story that Virg Foss wrote on Noah in 2003:
NOAH WAS UND’S FIRST ALL-AMERICAN IN HOCKEY
By Virg Foss
Herald Staff Writer
He was UND’s first All-America hockey player. He played for the United States in the 1952 Olympics, helping his country win a silver medal.
And he played for the Crookston Pirates, an amateur hockey team that won the 1951 national amateur championship with a win over the hockey-playing New York Mets.
Tremendous accomplishments, all. “Not bad for a little Lebanese kid from Crookston,” Noah said.
From the days when Noah lived in UND’s football stadium and played on a hockey team that wore old Sioux football jerseys, he’s seen UND hockey go from the bottom to the top.
He played on the 1948 Sioux team that marked the school’s entrance into major hockey with a victory over Michigan – with Noah scoring the winning goal in a 6-5 triumph in Ann Arbor.
His pride in UND athletics has carried over.
“I’m very proud because of the heritage that has been developed over the years,” Noah said, “and the fact I was a part of that.”
Today, UND plays in a $100 million-plus arena built by a former Sioux teammate of Noah, Ralph Engelstad. It’s a far cry from the days when Noah and Engelstad and hundreds of others played in “The Barn,” UND’s unheated facility.
“Those were good old days in the barn,” Noah said. “I wouldn’t give them up for anything. But at the same time, I feel good about the developments that have taken place at UND.”
In a sense, sports opened the world to Noah.
He traveled to such countries as England, France and Switzerland with the U.S. National hockey team and he played in the 1952 Olympics in Oslo, Norway, where only a loss to Sweden kept the United States from a gold medal.
Times were far different at UND when Noah attended school.
“Living in the old football stadium was like a rat hole, but a lot of guys came out of there to go on to outstanding careers in medicine and law,” Noah recalls. “It was a lot of fun. You had all those veterans coming back to school after the Korean War and the card games would go on into the wee hours of the morning.”
Noah originally went to St. John’s in Collegeville, Minn., to play football. But he returned to Crookston after a month and stayed out of college for a year.
“I played hockey in the States Dominion League that year away from school, and I remember hitchhiking over to UND and talking to them,” Noah said. “They told me that if I was going to go back to school, I should think about UND.”
He did. In his senior year, he became the school’s first All-America player in hockey.
He can’t pinpoint any honor or feat that stands out No. 1 to him.
“To me, it’s been a honor all the way for the son of a mother who came through Ellis Island on her own from Lebanon to have had the opportunities I’ve had in life,” Noah said.
“We live in a great country,” he said. “You can’t beat the United States.”