“Coach Sauer will be dearly missed by all those who were fortunate to have known him,”
One of the most recognised and respected leaders in ice hockey worldwide, Jeff Sauer, passed away on Thursday (2 February) at the age of 73.
Sauer, former men’s ice hockey head coach at the University of Wisconsin and 2014 US Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, was in his sixth season as head coach of the US National Sled Hockey Team.
“When you talk about positive people that genuinely care, Jeff Sauer is at the top of the list,” said Jim Smith, President of USA Hockey. “He’s a giant in our sport overall, but particularly from the USA Hockey perspective, he really made a difference on the advancement and visibility of disabled hockey."
International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven said: “There are some people in life who have an unshakeable passion for the energy within sport to change lives and Jeff was one of those people.
“He was not only committed to getting the best out of his players, but he believed in what they could achieve as individuals and as a collective on and off the ice. The US Para ice hockey team reaped the rewards of that dedication with an incredible run, highlighted by golds at Sochi 2014 and the 2015 Worlds and inspiring thousands of people along the way. My deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and the US ice hockey community at this sad time.”
US Para ice hockey goaltender Steve Cash, who was part of Sauer’s squad for his whole time in charge, said on Twitter: “Coach Sauer epitomised what it meant to be an ambassador, a hero, and a role model. I've idolised him for several years and will continue to.”
Forward Dan McCoy wrote: “Shocked saddened by this news. Coach Sauer was a great man, coach, and mentor to all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
“There are few like Jeff,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “He brought an infectious joy to our sport every single day. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Jamie and the entire family.”
“He always cared so much about his players,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey of Sauer, who he played for collegiately at the University of Wisconsin. “Our sport at all levels benefited from Jeff’s unending passion and commitment.”
“Coach Sauer will be dearly missed by all those who were fortunate to have known him,” said Dan Brennan, director of inline and sled hockey for USA Hockey and general manager of the 2016-17 US National Sled Hockey Team. “He was a great coach who always made hockey fun and he treated everyone in the game and in life as his equal. Our national sled hockey players loved him as did so many who were fortunate to play for him and coach at his side. Our great game lost a genuine legend today.”
Born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, on 10 March, 1943, Sauer grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota before attending Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 1961-65. After three seasons as a varsity men’s ice hockey player for the Tigers, Sauer graduated and signed on as an assistant coach under Bob Johnson for the 1965-66 season. The following year, Sauer followed coach Johnson to the University of Wisconsin where he served as an assistant coach for four seasons (1966-71).
In 1971, Coach Sauer returned to Colorado Springs as head coach of his alma mater. In his 11 seasons behind the Tigers bench, Sauer was twice named Western Collegiate Hockey Association Coach of the Year (1972, 1975) and in 1978 led the Tigers to an upset over the University of Denver for a share of the only conference tournament title in school history.
Sauer then returned to the University of Wisconsin in 1982 and found immediate success as he led the Badgers to the WHCA Tournament Championship and NCAA Division I national championship in 1983. In total, Sauer’s 20 seasons at Wisconsin saw the Badgers produce four 30-win seasons, three NCAA Men’s Frozen Four appearances, 12 NCAA tournament berths, two WCHA regular-season crowns, five WCHA playoff titles and two national championships. Overall, Sauer’s 31-year NCAA Division I college coaching career featured 655 wins (seventh all-time).
Sauer also coached a wide array of US teams during and after his college coaching career. He was the head coach of the US Men’s National Team at the 1995 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden, and at the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle, Washington. He also led the U.S. Men’s Select Team at the 1989 Pravda Cup in Leningrad, Soviet Union, and at the 1997 Tampere Cup in Tampere, Finland.
In 2011, Sauer was named head coach of the US National Sled Hockey Team. In his six seasons at the helm, Team USA registered a 48-5-2-11 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record that included reaching the championship game of every major international competition and titles in seven major international events. The team’s most recent victory came at the 2016 World Sled Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and marked the sixth straight international championship, a streak that began at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. In total, Sauer led Team USA to championships at the 2012 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship in Hamar, Norway; the 2012 World Sled Hockey Challenge in Calgary, Alberta; the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia; the 2015 World Sled Hockey Challenge in Leduc, Alberta; the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship in Buffalo, New York; January’s 2016 World Sled Hockey Challenge in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia; and December 2016’s World Sled Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
A member of USA Hockey’s International Council and Disabled Hockey Committee, Sauer was President of the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. In addition, he helped select the last six US Deaflympic Ice Hockey Teams while leading the team as head coach in the last four Winter Deaflympics. Most recently, he guided the US Deaflympic squad to a bronze-medal finish at the 2015 Winter Deaflympics in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. He also guided the US Deaflympic squad to a gold medal at the 2007 Winter Deaflympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In over 40 years coaching hockey, Sauer has had nothing but success in his varied endeavours. He has been honoured with USA Hockey’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2000), the American Hockey Coaches Association’s John “Snooks” Kelly Founders Award (2004) and the NHL’s Lester Patrick Trophy (2011). He has also been inducted into the Wisconsin Hall of Fame, Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame and the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame.