The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame announced its class of 2014 on Wednesday, and it featured a pair of Badgers: former coach Jeff Sauer and defenseman Brian Rafalski.
Women’s hockey legend Karyn Bye-Dietz and former coach of the U.S. men’s national team Lou Vairo will join Sauer and Rafalski in being inducted on December 4th.
Sauer, who succeeded the legendary “Badger Bob” Johnson at Wisconsin, won two national championships, in 1983 and 1990, and recorded a program-record 489 victories while coaching the Badgers from 1982 to 2002. In addition, his teams also amassed two WCHA regular season titles, six WCHA tournament titles, 12 NCAA tournament berths, three Frozen Four appearances, and four 30-win seasons during his 20-year tenure.
Before coming to Madison, Sauer coached at Colorado College, his alma mater, where he was named the WCHA Coach of the Year in both 1972 and 1975. Since his retirement from UW, he has served as the WCHA’s assistant commissioner and coached the U.S. Sled Hockey Team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.
For his contributions, Sauer has received a number of accolades, including being inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004, the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. He also received USA Hockey’s 2000 Distinguished Achievement Award, the 2003 John “Snooks” Kelley Founders Award, the 2011 Lester Patrick Award, and the 2013 Hobey Baker Legend of College Hockey Award.
Sauer will be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Rafalski, one of his former players.
Rafalski played 150 games at UW from 1991 to 1995, scoring 20 goals and recording 80 assists. During his time in Madison, he was named to the 1992 All-WCHA Rookie Team and the 1995 All-WCHA first team. Rafalski also was a first team All-American and was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year in 1995.
Following his graduation, Rafalski went on to have a very successful career in the NHL and for the U.S. men’s national team. During his time in the NHL, he was named to the 1999-2000 All-Rookie team (he spent four years playing in Europe), won three Stanley Cups (two with the New Jersey Devils and one with the Detroit Red Wings), and finished with 515 career points, the 10th-highest total in NHL history among all American defenseman.
Rafalski played in three Winter Olympics for the United States (2002, 2006, 2010), winning two silver medals (2002, 2010). As the U.S.’s alternate captain during the 2010 Games in Vancouver, he recorded eight points (four goals and four assists), the most by a defenseman and third-most by any player. For his efforts, Rafalski was named the best defenseman in the tournament and selected to the tournament’s All-Star team.
Sauer and Rafalski will join six other Badgers already enshrined in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, the others being Bob Johnson, Mark Johnson, Chris Chelios, Mike Richter, Gary Suter, and Bob Suter.