Ice hockey was the only sport that offered more than gold medals at the National Sports Festival. Olympic berths were the prize for 26 players and when the selections were revealed today they included both nostalgia and a passel of Golden Gophers.
Picked at right wing was Dave Christian of North Dakota, who was a year old when his father, Billy, and his uncle, Roger, helped the United States win an Olympic gold medal at Squaw Valley in 1960. The U.S. has not done much since, as the Soviets have dominated international play, and not even Christian expects any anthem other then that of the U.S.S.R. to sound at Lake Placid.
"Right now a gold medal would be the ultimate," Christian said. "It could be done, I guess. How is a good question. More realistically. I'd think we have to look more toward a silver or a bronze at this point."
Christian was one of 19 former Western Collegiate Hockey Association players named to the team. Seventeen were Minnesota natives, 10 Universty of Minnesota players, including eight who led the Gophers to the 1979 NCAA title under Herb Brooke, who will coach the Olympic team.
Despite the long list of Gophers, there was little ground to quarrel with Brooks' picks, made in consultation with Ken Johannson, the team manager; Craig Patrick, the assistant coach. and an eight-man advisory board. About the only missing man who created much of a stir during the Festival was Vermont center Craig Homola, whose two goals Wednesday night helped the Great Lakes team defeat the Minnesota-dominated Mid-west for the championship, 4-2.
Brooks conceded that some players had wrapped up berths before they came here, since the selection process involved overall reputation and experience as well as four games here.
"A good example is Mark Johnson, who's a two-time All-America from the University of Wisconsin," Brooks said. "He had a bad case of stomach flu and played only one game in the Festival. But if he hadn't played at all, his past performance assured him a place on the team.
Goalie Jim Craig of Boston University was named although he played only 30 minutes, yielding six goals, and then injured a hand. Forward Ralph Cox of New Hampshire was picked even though he left for home without ever playing, a broken ankle not having healed properly.
One man who earned a berth by his performamce here was goalie Bruce Horsch, a Michigan Tech graduate who was voted the outstanding player by the victorious Great Lakes team. Horsch had a 2.00 average despite playing with a pulled hamstring. property of the Montreal Canadiens, Horsch split last season between Nova Scotia of the American League and Flint of the International League.
Ken Morrow, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound defenseman, joined Homola in the two-goal category for Great Lakes Wednesday and was a dominant force throughout the Festival. Although drafted by the New York Islanders, Morrow prefers the Olympic route to life on a farm.
"The Olympic team has a better schedule than the Islanders' farm team," said the bearded Morrow. "I hope I have a good Olympics and maybe then there will be pressure on them to bring me right up to the big team. I'm looking forward to playing the Russians. I'm not saying we'll beat them, but we should get a pretty good team out of this."