Born: Feb. 14, 1968
H.S. Class: 1986
|State Tourney Appearances||State Titles||All-State Tourney||Mr. Hockey||NHL Draft|
|1985, 86||None||1985, 86||1986||16th overall (Calgary, 1986)|
Bemidji's George Pelawa was named Mr. Hockey in 1986 after leading the Lumberjacks to their second straight state tournament appearance. Courtesy photo
Accuracy wasn’t much of a concern for Bemidji’s George Pelawa.
At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Pelawa took a simplified approach to shooting and scoring.
“If you gave him a pass, he would just try to bury it by shooting as hard as he could; he would put the puck right through the goaltender,” said Jason Meyer, Pelawa’s Lumberjacks linemate for two seasons. “If nothing else, he would knock over a couple of people and just keep whacking at the rebound and get it in that way, too.”
There were times when Pelawa’s game simply was too big for his high school opponents. Goalies often felt the brunt of the mismatch.
Meyer remembers playing in Baudette when Pelawa uncorked one of his cannon shots to dramatic – and scary – effect.
“He hit the goalie right square on the mask and dropped him right on his back,” Meyer said. “He dented the kid’s mask. It was a big dent.
“I skated right by him and saw his eyes rolled in the back of his head.”
The shaken goaltender made a full recovery. Bemidji won the game.
George Pelawa, at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, was taken in the first round (16th overall) of the NHL draft by the Calgary Flames in 1986. Courtesy photo
Pelawa, who bench pressed 310 pounds, also was Bemidji’s fastest skater. His combination of power and speed was unlike anything the state has ever seen.
“I think George might have been the most physically dominant player to ever play high school hockey in Minnesota,” said Bryan Grand, the former longtime Bemidji coach who played high school hockey for Roseau.
One of Pelawa’s many nicknames was, “The Great White Shark.” Another common label: “The Gentle Giant.”
“Some people say he was a gentle giant,” Meyer said. “I wouldn’t go that far. On the football field and hockey rink he wasn’t gentle by any means.”
Pelawa was an all-state football selection as a senior when he rushed for 516 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 52 carries. He also intercepted three passes and recovered four fumbles as a standout linebacker.
Several Big Ten schools, including Minnesota, were offering Pelawa football scholarships long before he caught the attention of college and pro hockey scouts. As a high school sophomore in his first varsity season, Pelawa managed nine assists and zero goals. He had scored 39 goals on Bemidji’s VFW state championship Bantam team as a freshman the season before, so his surprising goal-scoring drought (numerous Pelawa shots clanged off goalposts) was a featured topic in the locker room and around town.
On a statewide level, Pelawa didn’t become a household name until he reached the state tournament as a junior in 1985. Although Bemidji lost 5-3 to eventual state champion Burnsville in the quarterfinals and 3-0 to Minnetonka in the consolation round, Pelawa’s physical play and soft touch with the puck had scouts drooling. He finished his junior season with 26 goals and 11 assists.
“It was just fun to talk to him because he was always upbeat,” former Warroad coach Tom King said. “But when he put the skates on and the hockey stick in his hand, he turned into some kind of machine.
“Man, when he rocked you, he rocked you. He probably had the most impact of any player I had ever seen, hitting-wise.”
Pelawa upped his scoring totals to 29 goals, 25 assists as senior, breaking the school’s single-season school scoring record held previously by former Minnesota North Star defenseman Gary Sargent. Bemidji again reached the state tournament, winning its three Section 8 playoff games by a stunning total of 32-1.
Pelawa had goal and an assist in the Lumberjacks’ quarterfinal matchup with Hibbing, a team Bemidji had defeated by a comfortable margin late in the regular season. The Bluejackets pulled off a 4-3 upset, and Bemidji again was relegated to the consolation round.
The Lumberjacks beat Richfield and Bloomington Jefferson to win the consolation title. Pelawa had three goals and five assists in the three games and was named to the all-tournament team for the second straight year.
Pelawa was named Mr. Hockey after the state tournament, topping a field of finalists that included two-time state champion Scott Bloom of Burnsville.
“As a sophomore, he was awkward,” said Steve Peters, Bemidji’s goaltender who graduated with Pelawa. “He didn’t have the skill. He wasn’t a good skater.
“By the time he filled out as a senior he was dominating. He put guys through the glass. Off the ice, he was a teddy bear. One of the nicest guys in the room.”
Peters said he never suffered any broken bones – or mutilated facemasks – despite facing Pelawa’s booming shot daily in practice.
“I was a small goalie, too,” Peters said. “He was one of the guys who could scare you with his shot. It was heavy, hard and high. I don’t know if he had a whole lot of control on it, he just tried to push it through you.
“There were times, I wouldn’t admit it then, but in practice if he was coming down the wing on a 1-0, I would step aside. It wouldn’t be worth it.”
Pelawa was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, by the Calgary Flames in the spring of 1986. Although there was talk of Pelawa making the jump straight to professional hockey, he was instead set on joining Peters at the University of North Dakota.
Pelawa died in a car accident on Aug. 30, 1986.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
|Rank||Name||School||Grad.||Pos.||Born||Status||St. Titles||Mr. Hockey||College||Olym.||NHL|
|1||John Mayasich||Eveleth||1951||F||5/22/33||Retired||1948, 49, 50, 51||NA||Minnesota (1951-55)||1956, 1960||-|
|2||Neal Broten||Roseau||1978||F||11/29/59||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1978-81)||1980||1,099 gms; four teams; 80-97|
|3||Phil Housley||South St. Paul||1982||D||3/9/64||Retired||-||NA||-||2002||1,495 gms; eight teams; 82-03|
|4||Tim Sheehy||International Falls||1966||F||9/3/48||Retired||1964, 65, 66||NA||Boston College (1967-70)||1972||27 gms; DET, HAR; 77-80|
|5||Henry Boucha||Warroad||1969||D||6/1/51||Retired||-||NA||-||1972||247 gms; four teams; 71-77|
|6||Mike Antonovich||Greenway||1969||F||10/18/51||Retired||1967, 68||NA||Minnesota (1969-72)||-||87 gms; three teams; 75-84|
|7||Willard Ikola||Eveleth||1950||G||7/28/32||Retired||1948, 49, 50||NA||Michigan (1951-54)||1956||-|
|8||Mike Crowley||Bloomington Jefferson||1994||D||7/4/75||Retired||1992, 93, 94||1994||Minnesota (1994-97)||-||67 gms; ANA; 97-01|
|9||Dave Spehar||Duluth East||1996||F||11/7/77||Retired||1995||1996||Minnesota (1996-00)||-||-|
|10||John Matchefts||Eveleth||1949||F||6/18/31||Retired||1948, 49||NA||Michigan (1950-53)||1956||-|
|11||Kyle Rau||Eden Prairie||2011||F||10/24/92||Active||2009, 11||2011||Minnesota (2011- present)||-||-|
|12||Aaron Broten||Roseau||1979||F||11/14/60||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1979-81)||-||748 gms; six teams; 80-92|
|13||Craig Norwich||Edina East||1974||D||12/15/55||Retired||1974||NA||Wisconsin (1974-77)||-||104 gms; three teams; 79-81|
|14||John Pohl||Red Wing||1998||F||6/29/79||Retired||1997 (Class 1A)||1998||Minnesota (1998-02)||-||115 gms; StL, TOR; 03-08|
|15||Gary Sargent||Bemidji||1972||D||2/8/54||Retired||-||NA||Bemidji State (1972-73)||-||402 gms; LAK, MIN; 75-83|
|16||Bob Krieger||Edina||1970||F||10/5/52||Retired||1969||NA||Denver (1970-74)||-||-|
|18||Bill Nyrop||Edina||1970||D||7/23/52||Deceased||1969||NA||Notre Dame (1970-74)||-||207 gms; MON, MIN; 75-82|
|19||Tom Chorske||Minneapolis Southwest||1985||F||9/18/66||Retired||-||1985||Minnesota (1985-89)||-||596 gms; seven teams; 89-00|
|20||Steve "Pokey" Trachsel||Duluth Cathedral||1969||D||4/16/51||Retired||1966, 67, 68, 69 (Catholic)||NA||Minnesota-Duluth (1969-73)||-||-|
|21||Scott Bloom||Burnsville||1986||F||2/6/68||Retired||1985, 86||1986 finalist||Minnesota (1986-90)||-||-|
|22||Phil Hoene||Duluth Cathedral||1967||F||3/15/49||Retired||1965, 66, 67 (Catholic)||NA||Minnesota-Duluth (1968-71)||-||37 gms; LAK; 72-75|
|23||Corey Millen||Cloquet||1982||F||4/29/64||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1982-87)||1984, 1988||335 gms; five teams; 89-97|
|24||Reed Larson||Minneapolis Roosevelt||1974||D||7/30/56||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1974-77)||-||904 gms; six teams; 76-90|
|25||Bob Young||Hill||1971||D||3/1/53||Retired||1970 (Indep.)||NA||Denver (1971-75)||-||-|
|26||Brad Shelstad||Minneapolis Southwest||1970||G||9/14/52||Retired||1970||NA||Minnesota (1970-74)||-||-|
|27||Mike Ramsey||Minneapolis Roosevelt||1978||D||12/3/60||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1978-79)||1980||1,070 gms; three teams; 80-97|
|28||Matt Cullen||Moorhead||1995||F||11/2/76||Active||-||1995 finalist||St. Cloud State (1995-97)||-||966 gms; five teams; 98- present|
|29||Bill Baker||Grand Rapids||1975||D||11/29/56||Retired||1975||NA||Minnesota (1975-79)||1980||143 gms; four teams; 80-83|
|30||Paul Martin||Elk River||2000||D||3/5/81||Active||-||2000||Minnesota (2000-03)||2006||487 gms; NJ, PIT; 03- present|
|31||Wally Grant||Eveleth||1945||F||12/8/27||Retired||1945||NA||Michigan (1945-46, 47-50)||-||-|
|32||Brian Bonin||White Bear Lake||1992||F||11/28/73||Retired||-||1992||Minnesota (1992-96)||-||12 gms; PIT, MIN; 98-00|
|33||Larry Olimb||Warroad||1988||D||8/11/69||Retired||-||1988||Minnesota (1988-92)||-||-|
|34||Dave Langevin||Hill-Murray||1972||D||5/15/54||Retired||1970, 72 (Indep.)||NA||Minnesota-Duluth (1972-76)||-||513 gms; three teams; 79-87|
|35||Joe Bianchi||Bloomington Jefferson||1994||F||8/17/75||Retired||1992, 93, 94||1994 finalist||Wisconsin (1994-98)||-||-|
|36||Peter Fichuk||International Falls||1965||F||4/8/47||Retired||1964, 65||NA||Minnesota (1966-69)||-||-|
|37||Jon Casey||Grand Rapids||1980||G||8/29/62||Retired||1980||NA||North Dakota (1980-84)||425 gms; three teams; 83-87|
|38||Doug Woog||South St. Paul||1962||F||1/26/44||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1963-66)||-||-|
|39||Darby Hendrickson||Richfield||1991||F||8/28/72||Retired||-||1991||Minnesota (1991-93)||1994||518 gms; five teams; 94-04|
|40||Paul Ranheim||Edina||1984||F||1/25/66||Retired||1984||NA||Wisconsin (1984-88)||-||1,013 gms; five teams; 88-03|
|41||Steve Christoff||Richfield||1976||F||1/23/58||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1976-79)||1980||248 gms; three teams; 79-84|
|42||T.J. Oshie||Warroad||2005||F||12/23/86||Active||2003, 2005 (Class 1A)||2005 finalist||North Dakota (2005-08)||-||184 gms; StL; 08- present|
|43||Scott Lecy||Rochester John Marshall||1977||F||4/8/59||Retired||1977||NA||Wisconsin (1977-81)||-||-|
|44||Scott Bjugstad||Irondale||1979||F||6/2/61||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1979-83)||1984||317 gms; three teams; 83-92|
|45||Mike "Lefty" Curran||International Falls||1962||G||4/14/1944||Retired||1962||NA||North Dakota (1965-68)||1972||-|
|46||Joe Micheletti||Hibbing||1973||F||10/24/54||Retired||1973||NA||Minnesota (1973-77)||-||158 gms; StL, COL; 79-82|
|47||Rob McClanahan||Mounds View||1976||F||1/9/58||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1976-79)||1980||224 gms; three teams; 80-84|
|48||Nick Leddy||Eden Prairie||2009||D||3/20/91||Active||2009||2009||Minnesota (2009-10)||-||46 gms; CHI; 10- present|
|49||Tom Pederson||Bloomington Jefferson||1988||D||1/14/70||Retired||-||1988 finalist||Minnesota (1988-91)||-||240 gms; SJ, TOR; 92-97|
|50||Dave Christian||Warroad||1977||F||5/12/59||Retired||-||NA||North Dakota (1977-79)||1980||1,009 gms; five teams; 80-94|
|51||Jay North||Bloomington Jefferson||1980||F||6/26/62||Retired||-||NA||Harvard (1980-84)||-||-|
|52||Paul Johnson||Breck||1953||F||5/18/36||Retired||-||NA||-||1960, 1964||-|
|53||Pete Waselovich||International Falls||1973||G||11/15/54||Retired||1972||NA||North Dakota (1973-77)||-||-|
|54||Tom Kurvers||Bloomington Jefferson||1980||D||9/14/62||Retired||-||NA||UM-Duluth (1980-84)||-||659 gms; seven teams; 84-95|
|55||Mark Osiecki||Burnsville||1986||D||7/23/68||Retired||1985, 86||-||Wisconsin (1997-90)||-||93 gms; four teams; 91-93|
|56||Mark Pavelich||Eveleth||1976||F||2/28/58||Retired||-||NA||UM-Duluth (1976-79)||1980||355 gms; three teams; 81-92|
|57||Mark Parrish||Bloomington Jefferson||1995||F||2/2/77||Active||1994||1995 finalist||St. Cloud State (1995-97)||2006||722 gms; seven teams; 98- present|
|58||Bryan "Butsy" Erickson||Roseau||1978||F||3/7/60||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1979-83)||-||351 gms; four teams; 83-94|
|59||Roger Christian||Warroad||1956||F||12/1/35||Deceased||-||NA||-||1960, 1964||-|
|60||Bill Christian||Warroad||1956||F||1/28/38||Retired||-||NA||-||1960, 1964||-|
|61||Trent Klatt||Osseo||1989||F||1/30/72||Retired||-||1989||Minnesota (1989-92)||-||782 gms; five teams; 91-04|
|62||Erik Rasmussen||St. Louis Park||1995||F/D||3/28/77||Retired||-||1995||Minnesota (1995-97)||-||545 gms; three teams; 97-07|
|63||Robb Stauber||Duluth Denfeld||1986||G||11/25/67||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1986-89)||-||62 gms; LAK, BUF; 89-95|
|64||Joe Dziedzic||Minneapolis Edison||1990||F||12/18/71||Retired||-||1990||Minnesota (1990-94)||-||130 gms; PIT, PHX; 95-99|
|65||Ryan McDonagh||Cretin- Derham Hall||2007||D||6/13/89||Active||2006||2007||Wisconsin (2007-10)||-||40 gms; NYR; 10- present|
|66||Craig Johnson||Hill-Murray||1990||F||3/18/72||Retired||-||1990 finalist||Minnesota (1990-93)||1994||557 gms; five teams; 94-04|
|67||Matt Hendricks||Blaine||2000||F||6/17/81||Active||2000||2000 finalist||St. Cloud State (2000-04)||-||137 gms; COL, WSH; 08- present|
|68||Wally Chapman||Edina||1982||F||7/6/64||Retired||1982||NA||Minnesota (1982-86)||-||-|
|69||Bob Paradise||Cretin||1962||D||4/22/44||Retired||-||NA||Saint Mary's (1962-66)||1968||368 gms; four teams; 71-79|
|70||Ben Hanowski||Little Falls||2009||F||10/18/90||Active||-||2009 finalist||St. Cloud State (2009- present)||-||-|
|71||Damian Rhodes||Richfield||1987||G||5/28/69||Retired||-||NA||Michigan Tech (1987-90)||-||309 gms; three teams; 90-02|
|72||Eric Strobel||Rochester Mayo||1976||F||6/5/58||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1976-79)||1980||-|
|73||Dick Dougherty||International Falls||1950||F||8/5/32||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1951-54)||1956||-|
|74||Gino Guyer||Greenway||2002||F||10/14/83||Active||-||2002||Minnesota (2002-06)||-||-|
|75||Jim Amidon||International Falls||1963||F||2/18/45||Retired||1962||NA||Colorado College (1964-67)||-||-|
|76||Karl Goehring||Apple Valley||1996||G||8/23/78||Retired||1996||NA||North Dakota (1997-01)||-||-|
|77||Rube Bjorkman||Roseau||1947||F||2/27/29||Retired||1946||NA||Minnesota (1948-51)||1948, 1952||-|
|78||Tony Bianchi||Bloomington Jefferson||1989||F||12/15/70||Retired||1989||-||Minnesota (1991-94)||-||-|
|79||Oscar Mahle||International Falls||1957||F||8/22/39||Deceased||1957||NA||Minnesota (1959-61)||-||-|
|80||Mike Randolph||Duluth Cathedral||1970||F||11/5/51||Retired||1967, 68, 69 (Catholic)||NA||-||-||-|
|81||Aaron Ness||Roseau||2008||D||5/18/90||Active||2007||2008||Minnesota (2008-11)||-||-|
|82||Doug Palazzari||Eveleth||1970||F||11/3/52||Retired||-||NA||Colorado College (1970-74)||-||108 gms; StL; 74-79|
|83||Nick Checco||Bloomington Jefferson||1993||F||11/18/74||Retired||1992, 93||1993||Minnesota (1993-97)||-||-|
|84||John Rothstein||Grand Rapids||1975||F||10/28/56||Retired||1975||NA||UM-Duluth (1975-79)||-||-|
|85||Gary Wood||International Falls||1965||D||9/28/46||Deceased||1964, 65||NA||-||-||-|
|86||Al Hangsleben||Warroad||1971||D||2/22/53||Retired||-||NA||North Dakota (1971-74)||-||185 gms; three teams; 79-82|
|87||Doug Peltier||St. Paul Johnson||1968||F||6/29/50||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1969-72)||-||-|
|88||Mike Lauen||Edina East||1979||F||2/6/61||Retired||1978, 79||NA||Michigan Tech (1979-83)||-||4 gms; WIN; 83-84|
|90||Tom Gorowsky||Centennial||2004||F||4/8/86||Retired||2004||2004||Wisconsin (2005-09)||-||-|
|91||Jack McCartan||St. Paul Marshall||1953||G||8/5/35||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1955-58)||1960||12 gms; NYR; 59-61|
|92||Doug Zmolek||Roch. John Marshall||1989||D||11/3/70||Retired||-||1989 finalist||Minnesota (1989-92)||-||467 gms; four teams; 92-00|
|93||Pete LoPresti||Eveleth||1972||G||5/23/54||Retired||-||NA||Denver (1972-74)||-||175 gms; MIN, EDM; 74-81|
|94||Terry Abram||South St. Paul||1965||D||2/14/47||Retired||-||NA||North Dakota (1966-69)||-||-|
|95||Bill "Buzz" Schneider||Babbitt||1972||F/D||9/14/54||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1972-75)||1976, 1980||-|
|96||David Backes||Spring Lake Park||2002||F||5/1/84||Active||-||2002 finalist||Minnesota State (2003-06)||2010||364 gms; StL; 06-11|
|97||Don Ross||Roseau||1960||F||10/11/42||Retired||1958, 59||NA||North Dakota (1961-65)||1964, 1968||-|
|98||Mike Polich||Hibbing||1971||F||12/19/52||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1971-75)||-||226 gms; MON, MIN; 76-81|
|99||Chris Locker||Duluth East||1996||F||10/14/77||Retired||1995||-||UW-River Falls (1999-2000)||-||-|
|100||Herb Brooks||St. Paul Johnson||1955||F||8/5/37||Deceased||1955||NA||Minnesota (1955-59)||1964, 1968||-|