April 4, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

A Moment In Time

How Ferris State Coach Daniels, Shawn Walsh and Moonlight Graham Are Connected

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

It took the 1989 film "Field of Dreams" for people to remember Moonlight Graham.

Ferris State coach Bob Daniels didn't need a movie to make a name for himself — he's been doing quite well, thank you very much, at Ferris State for the last 20 years.

Like Graham, who famously played just one game of major league baseball and didn't record an official at bat, Daniels is a similar curiosity of the record books. Daniels' official line for his hockey playing career is ... Games Played: 1. The end.

But his story could be just as romanticized, if a filmmaker had such aspirations.

Called up from the junior varsity during his sophomore year, Daniels rode the bench for a period and a half. With his team down 4-1, Ron Mason, the legendary coach then in his second year at Michigan State, tapped him on the shoulder. Daniels went out, his team scored a goal, and he came off, done.

"All I was thinking was, 'Now that we came back, I'm not going to get on the ice again,'" Daniels said.

Meanwhile, Daniels shared similarities not just with Moonlight Graham, but with another epic character.

For who was the coach of that junior varsity team at Michigan State? None other than Shawn Walsh, who went on to win two national championships at Maine while spinning college hockey on its ear with the force of his personality.

"He was young, but at the time, I didn't realize that. That sounds funny," Daniels said. "He was high energy, like he always was. He was very self-confident. But he was really good to deal with, he always made everyone feel real positive. He had a knack to bring out the best in everyone, with nothing more than a couple of words."

Walsh's personality could not be different than Daniels', but the pair share the bond of having been little more than junior varsity players (Walsh at Bowling Green, when Mason was there), who nevertheless went on to distinguished coaching careers.

"It allows me to appreciate what kids don't get in lineup go through," Daniels said.

Daniels came out of Livonia-Churchill High School in Michigan, recruited by Miami. But then, the CCHA was not among the big boys of college hockey. So instead, Daniels went for Michigan State, being coached by another legend, Amo Bessone. The Spartans were still in the powerful WCHA at the time.

"You just showed up," Daniels said. "You got a letter in the mail for the first team meeting, and they said try to be in shape and let's go. It's nothing like today. We showed up, and I knew there was a chance I would start (with JV). As a kid you have high impressions of yourself. Looking back, I would've been better off playing-wise at Miami. But I made the right decision in terms of being able to play for Ron.

"Both Ron and Shawn were ahead of their time. Ron had the ability to take something and reduce it to its simplest form so it was clear to everyone what was expected. Rather than make it complex, he made it easy. With Shawn, he was a lot more advanced than other programs. They were ahead of the game strategy-wise."

The friendship with Walsh lasted, and when Daniels got the job at Ferris State in 1992, he took his team to Orono to see just what Walsh had built at Maine. By then, the Black Bears were a power, and on the way to a national title.

"He was a constant recruiter," Daniels said of Walsh. "I don't know if he slept much. He continued to set the trends in a lot of things in college hockey.

"What worked for him is that he was true to his personality. And I am as well. He was who he was, and I liked him for that. For me to be like him would've been false."

By the way, that one game Daniels played? It was against Notre Dame. And who was on that other team? Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who is here at the Frozen Four.

You couldn't write a script like that.

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