1997 - Robert "Bob" Utecht

Robert "Bob" Utecht
Robert "Bob" Utecht

Robert “Bob” Utecht – 1937: “Mr. Hockey,” voice of the North Stars for 14 years, writer and editor of Navy publications, reporter for first UN Peace Conference.

 

Bio Courtesy of Brent Peterson, Stillwater Historian
and The Lowdown Newspaper, October 14, 2010

During this time of the year, most sports fans are overly energized about football, baseball, hockey and the beginnings of the basketball season. Channel surfing becomes an obsession and the scores and statistics are rolling off their tongues.

One of the most diehard sports fans who lived in the St. Croix Valley — who either played it, organized it or wrote about it in the newspapers — was Bob Utecht. 

Utecht was the oldest son of Joseph and Frances Utecht, born in Stillwater on Jan. 12, 1920. He was educated in Stillwater schools and graduated from Stillwater High School in 1937.

After World War II, Utecht met his soon-to-be wife Donna at a naval base near San Francisco. They married in Prosser, Wash., in August 1946 and then moved to Minneapolis. It was there that Bob landed a job as a booking agent lining up performers and bands for local performances. His top attraction was a rodeo company that he would travel with as the announcer.

“We had the best Wild West show since the 1920s,” recalled Utecht in a 2001 interview.

Utecht’s role in the Minnesota athletic community cannot be overlooked. He was one of the founders of the nationally recognized Bloomington Athletic Association. He also was instrumental in the work that was done to have the Metropolitan Stadium and later the Metropolitan Center in Bloomington constructed. That led the Minnesota Twins and North Stars to come to Minnesota, and Utecht even served as the North Stars announcer until 1981. It was as the announcer for the North Stars that his well-known phrase “Let’s play hockey,” was developed. When the Wild came to Minnesota, that saying was again used to begin every game.

He and his wife Donna started the “Let’s Play Hockey” magazine back in 1972, and they edited the magazine until he sold it in 1986.

In 1977 Utecht authored the book “This is Gold Country” about the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball team, highlighting the past accomplishments attained under coach Jim Dutcher and All-American player Mychal Thompson.

The Utechts moved back to Stillwater in 1987 and Bob started writing a column for the Stillwater Gazette. In that column he started promoting local causes and groups. He pushed the sesquicentennials of 1993 and 1999 along with many nonprofit groups including the Washington County Historical Society.

Gazette publisher Mike Mahoney said, “I don’t believe that there’s ever been a better salesperson for a community than Bob. His columns were focused on history, but also continual improvement.” Mahoney continued by saying that “when Bob moved back to Stillwater, he really poured his heart into the community, which he loved very deeply.”

Utecht went from writing five columns a week down to three but added a weekly interview-type show on the Valley Access Channel in Stillwater. On that show he discussed politics and history and anything else that caught his attention for that week.

With Utecht’s many accomplishments throughout his career came recognition through many awards, such as an induction into the Minnesota High School Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame and the Stillwater Jaycees Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award of Stillwater High School in 1997.

Later in his career he moved from writing for the Gazette to the Stillwater Courier. His health began to fail and he eventually penned his last article and signed off on his weekly cable show.

On June 23, 2007, Bob Utecht died. The loss of such a community promoter and outstanding representative of the area will never be replaced. People might have disagreed with him or thought his positions were crazy, but what the citizens of this community cannot disagree with is that Bob Utecht will live forever in the pages of our history.

 

’Nuff said.