Kurvers, an assistant general manager with the Minnesota Wild, was diagnosed in January 2019 with adenocarcinoma, a small cell lung cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes and breastbone.
Kurvers, a member of the DECC Hall of Fame, came to UMD from Bloomington Jefferson High School in 1980 at the age of 17. He won the Hobey as a senior at UMD in 1983-84 after posting 76 points from 18 goals and 58 assists. He was also named WCHA Player of the Year and an All-American while leading the Bulldogs to the 1984 NCAA Championship game and their first regular-season and post-season WCHA titles.
He was inducted into the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991 and to this day still holds school records for career goals (43) and points (192) by a defender.
Former Minnesota Duluth coach Mike Sertich, right, wraps an arm around his captain, Tom Kurvers, as he congratulates Kurvers on winning the 1984 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Kurvers was the first of six Bulldogs to win the award. News Tribune file photo
Former Bulldogs coach Mike Sertich said what really put Kurvers over the top in 1983-84 to make him the fourth-ever recipient of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award was his character.
I always thought that if my sons grew up like Tom Kurvers, I would be a successful father. He meant so much to me as a player on our team, Sertich said ahead of Kurvers’ induction into the DECC Hall of Fame in 2019.
I think (the Hobey Baker committee) realized his leadership skills. He was an excellent student. He was very good in the community. Everything I ever asked those guys, they did. That was part of the whole story. They endeared themselves to the community at a time when the community needed something to grab onto. Tommy was the captain and leader of the whole thing. That was very clear to many people outside of Duluth. This boy is quite special.
Kurvers played for seven different teams during 11 seasons in the NHL, starting with the Canadiens, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 1985-86. He was traded three times from Montreal to the Buffalo Sabers in 86-87, from Buffalo to the New Jersey Devils for the 87-88 season, and again at the start of the 89-90 campaign to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Scott Niedermayer.
Former Minnesota Duluth captain Tom Kurvers is shown here during a game against Minnesota in February 1984. (News Tribune file photo)
He played one season with the Vancouver Canucks in 90-91, three with the New York Islanders in 1991-94, and finally one season with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 94-95.
After playing in the NHL, he has spent the past 20 years as a scout and leader in the league. His first 11 were with the Arizona Coyotes as a radio analyst, professional scout and then director of player personnel. The next 10 were with the Tampa Bay Lightning as an assistant general manager and then senior advisor to the general manager. In June 2018, he returned home to Minnesota to serve as assistant general manager of the Minnesota Wild and general manager of the franchise, the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild.
Those who played with Kurvers and later worked with him credit his elite vision both on the ice and in the front office for a long and successful career in the NHL.
FROM THE ARCHIVE:
His vision both on and off the ice is very cerebral. He’s very intelligent, said Norm Maciver, the Seattle Krakens director of player staff and former Kurvers roommate at UMD, in 2019. He’s a good thinker. The only thing about Tom is that he asks a lot of questions. It’s not that he has all the answers. He is very eager to learn. He likes to ask a lot of questions, he likes to talk to people he really respects in the game.
He just got this insatiable appetite to learn and be a better person, a better manager, a better player. That has carried him through his entire career.
Kurvers praised his father, Jim, and mother, Julie, for the success he had in hockey.
Jim was a multisport athlete in high school in Hopkins. In addition to being an all-state football player and four-year letter winner in baseball, he was a member of the powerful Hopkins basketball teams that won state titles in 1952 and 1953.
Tom Kurvers said his father knew how to be a good sports parent because he was an athlete himself. Jim Kurvers was supportive, but also knew when to be quiet. He demanded from his children the effort and dedication to the game, but didn’t throw in any extra crap.
Meanwhile, Julie Kurvers, who passed away in January 2018 from her own battle with cancer, instilled Tom and his four siblings with grit and defiance.
For me, the house I grew up in was a huge factor in every athletic success I had, Kurvers said in 2019.
Looking back on 1984
Tom Kurvers (left) poses for a photo in January 1984 with his Minnesota Duluth teammates Bill Watson (second from left), Matt Christensen (second from right), and Tom Herzig. (News Tribune file photo)
Before being inducted into the DECC Hall of Fame in the summer of 2019, Kurvers reflected on the Hobey win in 1984 that started it all for UMD. Kurvers said he and the others have benefited from each other’s win, but nothing has put him, the Bulldogs and the university in the spotlight more than what Scott Perunovich and his company have done in recent years by winning back-to-back national championships. championships.
Kurvers said the NCAA titles now pretty much overshadow the now six Hobey winners, with Perunovich being the most recent in April 2020.
That draws more attention to all of us than Jack winning his Hobey Baker in 2012, Kurvers said after UMD repeated it in 2019. It is now a championship program, with five winners. It’s quite a story there in Duluth when you put it in that context. I think the titles are bigger than these prices.
Winning the award at the 1984 Frozen Four in Lake Placid, NY was an emotional rollercoaster for Kurvers. Sertich initially briefed the Kurvers honors team in the locker room after a 2-1 win over North Dakota that sent UMD into the national championship game.
After we won the semifinal against North Dakota, he came in and let everyone know. I was surprised, Kurvers said. We were already in a good frame of mind after an overtime win. It was pretty cool, but you already felt as good as you can feel. It wasn’t like I suddenly felt better. I felt really happy and very excited about what we had just accomplished.
The next morning, while the rest of the team was rehearsing for the NCAA title game, Kurvers and Sertich attended the official announcement of the 1984 Hobey winner. Kurvers said as flattering as it was to win the award, he didn’t like the feeling of being pulled away from his teammates the day before Bowling Green State’s eventual loss of four hours of overtime in the NCAA Championship.
Minnesota Duluth’s Tom Kurvers (right) tries to evade Scott Sandelin of North Dakota during a game in January 1984. Sandelin, of course, now coaches the Bulldogs. File Photo / Duluth News Tribune
I remember feeling uncomfortable with that, Kurvers said, remembering the experience. I was always talking about it. I haven’t said this in 10 years. I always thought, you have to find a better time to do it. Do it after the game, do it Sunday night, do it at another time. Don’t put that credit on a player who has to play a different game. It is heavy. It’s humbling, it’s great, but you didn’t get there by playing an individual sport. You got there by being part of a good team for the lifetime of that award in almost every case. Quite a few players were chosen and the next day they played the championship game. I found it quite heavy. One, missed practice on Friday and two, it interrupted preparation for the biggest game of your life.
Leave it to Kurvers’ co-captain and longtime roommate at UMD, Bill Grillo, to make his teammate feel better about the prize the next morning. While the team was having breakfast, Grillo got up and handed Kurvers a fake newspaper he had somehow bought in Lake Placid with a headline that read: Kurvers tied Grillo up for Hobey.
Kurvers kept that newspaper. He said it was the memory of winning the prize that has stayed with him forever.
This story was updated at 11 a.m., June 21, 2021, with the timing of Kurvers’ death. It was originally posted on June 21, 2021 at 9:57 AM.
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