Jeff Sauer spent more than 40 years coaching hockey, and had nothing but success in his varied endeavors. Everyone who was lucky enough to know ‘Coach’ would agree that his love for the game of hockey and, more importantly, the players and people involved in hockey that will be his lasting legacy.
Sauer, a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, was born in Fort Atkinson, WI on March 10, 1943 and was raised in St. Paul, Minn. He proudly played in the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament for St. Paul Washington before playing hockey at Colorado College.
Sauer’s 31-year NCAA Division I men’s college coaching career featured 655 wins (seventh all-time) and two national championships, both of which came at the University of Wisconsin (1983, 1990). Sauer led Wisconsin to three NCAA Men’s Frozen Four appearances, 12 NCAA tournament berths, six Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) playoff titles and two WCHA regular-season crowns in 20 seasons (1982-2002).
He also spent 11 years (1971-82) as head coach of the men’s ice hockey team at Colorado College, where he was twice named WCHA Coach of the Year (1972, 1975).
Throughout his college career, he served as head coach for multiple U.S. squads, including the 1995 U.S. Men’s National Team and U.S. teams that participated in the 1990 Goodwill Games, 1989 Pravda Cup and 1997 Tampere Cup.
Sauer gained prominence as a college coach, but he is also remembered for his work coaching hockey players with disabilities.
“He gave endless, endless, endless — you don’t know how much time he gave — energy and love to those kids,” said U.S. Olympic team coach Tony Granato who played for Sauer and now coaches at Wisconsin.
He spent seven years as head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. He led the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship. Two years later, he was at the helm of the gold-medal winning 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team in Sochi, Russia.
Additionally, Sauer was president of the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association. He helped select the last five U.S. Deaflympic Ice Hockey Teams, and led the team as head coach at three Winter Deaflympics, including a gold medal at the 2007 Deaflympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Sauer was honored 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 was also inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame, Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame and the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sauer was preparing to coach the U.S sled hockey team in the 2018 Paralympic Games at the time of his death on Feb. 2, 2017