Pete Stauber, the lone noteworthy Republican seeking the seat left open by DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan's retirement, brings a biography to the Eighth Congressional District that would be the envy of either party:
A native of Duluth and a 20-plus year veteran of that city's police department; a leader of the police labor union; a two-term member of the St. Louis County Board, on which he now resides as president. What a candidate! Hometown boy, Blue Lives Matter, pro-labor, local government experience... it's everything you could want in a northern Minnesota candidate.
Yet from Pete Stauber, there's more.
Stauber was a stud hockey player at Denfeld High School in Duluth, where he played as a forward alongside his brother Robb, a goalie. Robb Stauber went on to win a Hobey Baker award at the University of Minnesota, but it was Pete -- who left Minnesota to attend Lake Superior State University in Michigan -- who got to compete for team glory.
Stauber helped get the Lakers to the 1988 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship game, which Lake Superior State won, 4-3, over St. Lawrence University (New York). The victory was a stunner for Lake Superior, which became the smallest school ever to win college hockey's biggest prize, and had only made its first NCAA tournament appearance three years earlier.
For Pete Stauber, this on-ice glory led directly to a formative political moment. As noted on his campaign biography page:
"One of Stauber’s highlights in college was having the opportunity to meet President Ronald Reagan, after the LSSU hockey team (which he captained) won the Division I National Championship in 1988."
That biography leaves out how big a role Stauber played in winning that White House trip. As noted in Minnesota news write-ups, it was Stauber whose overtime shot was stopped by the St. Lawrence goalie, only to rebound to teammate Mark Vermette, who put home the championship-clinching goal for Lake Superior State.
In fact, Stauber played an even bigger part during a pivotal moment late in regulation.
With the score tied 3-3 and less than two minutes remaining, St. Lawrence gained possession of the puck in its zone and zoomed up the ice. The end-to-end transition led to a mad scramble, with two players buzzing around the front of the net. Four Lake Superior State players converged on the scramble for the puck.
One broke away from it. Pete Stauber took one look at the mess of bodies and skates to his right, and another at the gaping goal to his left. In the next instant, Stauber rammed his shoulder into the crossbar, lifting the goal from its moorings. A referee whistled for a stoppage of play, and St. Lawrence's goal-scoring opportunity was over.
The team was due another one: As television announcers noted immediately, Stauber's deliberate assault on the net should have resulted in a penalty shot, a one-on-one chance with the NCAA championship on the line.
But the refs blew the call, instead signaling for a face-off. Crisis averted. The rest is college hockey history.
Stauber's play -- risky, arguably crafty, and inarguably illegal -- was noted in game stories in the Star Tribune and Sports Illustrated, and New York press covering the championship applauded St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh for downplaying its importance.
"I'm sure it's a tough call if you don't get a real good look at it," Marsh said. "At this point, I'm not going to go back and look at this play or that play. No excuses. That's hockey."
St. Lawrence is still taking that same high road, if the response from Brian McColgan is any indication. McColgan, a player on that team and now an athletics director for a private school in Massachusetts, declined an interview for this story.
"I really don’t have much to say about the play as things happen and players just have to adjust to what happens," McColgan wrote in an email. "You can only control what is in your control. As for other [St. Lawrence] players, I am not sure that they will have much to say either."
McColgan's words are a model of restraint, especially to anyone who might be trying to get over a grudge, whether it's 30 years old or three days.
But what about Pete Stauber? Though numerous news reports after the 1988 championship game mention this moment, none has the team captain quoted on the subject. Shouldn't he explain his decision to risk everything and cheat to win?
He still won't. Numerous attempts to reach Stauber for this story -- through his campaign email account, his St. Louis County contact information, and multiple Stauber-for-Congress campaign surrogates -- produced nothing in response. If Stauber has any feelings about knocking the net off, he's keeping them to himself.
Almost any answer from Stauber would suffice, from sheepish acknowledgment ("Gee, did I really do that?") to wolfish pride ("Hell yeah I did that!"), but his silence is curious. In the most tense moment of his young life, Stauber 1) didn't trust his teammates to win fairly, 2) broke the rules, and 3) wouldn't be held accountable for it, either at the time, or in the 30 years since. Is this the guy who you wanna trust to make deals with D.C. lobbyists?
There are better reasons not to elect Pete Stauber to Congress than the fact he once cheated to win a hockey game. Days after telling the Duluth News Tribune how protective he would be of expansive Second Amendment rights, 17 people died in a Florida school shooting, and here's how Stauber reacted.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of this unspeakable tragedy in Florida.— Pete Stauber (@PeteStauber) February 15, 2018
Stauber supports "patient-driven and physician-guided healthcare" -- meaning, what we have now -- over "socialized, European-style healthcare," which sounds like it might come with a complimentary baguette.
He thinks environmentalists should quit complaining about potentially ruinous mining projects because every manufactured product we use in our daily lives comes from "natural resources above and below the ground," adding: "Even protest signs are made from trees." Stauber wrote this and published it in a newspaper. Really.
Best of all, Stauber applauded the passage of the Republican tax cut bill, which he said would provide "much-needed relief to the middle-class families of Minnesota," wisely leaving out the part about giant handouts to major corporations and the super-wealthy who own them.
Voters in the Eighth Congressional District will have plenty of chances to learn these and other bad positions Pete Stauber holds, and are sure to hear all about his backstory as a hockey hero-cum-cop who now wants to represent them in Washington. If you meet Pete, be sure to ask him about that time he went to the White House, and got to meet Ronald Reagan.
Just don't ask him what he did to get there.