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Published February 24, 2011, 08:37 PM

For Serge Gambucci, Hockey is a Way of Life

A North Dakota Hockey legend was at the first game of the boy's state hockey tournament Thursday. Serge Gambucci says he wouldn't miss it.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

A North Dakota Hockey legend was at the first game of the boy's state hockey tournament Thursday. Serge Gambucci says he wouldn't miss it.

Gambucci was Grand Forks Central's hockey coach in the first state tournament 50 years ago. He's a living legend when it comes North Dakota hockey and he had a role in starting the tournament that turns 50 this week.

You don't have to look to hard to find Gambucci during a Grand Forks Central High School hockey game.

"If there is a hockey game, especially with central playing, I'm there," Gambucci said.

On Thursday, we found him watching Central win their first game in the North Dakota State boy's hockey tournament. It's a team he was coaching 50 years ago at the first state tournament.

"1961 is the first year that the tournament became official with the state High School League and we only had three teams," Gambucci said.

Gambucci would go on to coach his team to ten consecutive straight titles before retiring. He says one the biggest challenges of coaching high school hockey in the 50's and 60's was finding teams to play. He often had to head out of state.

"And then I got familiar with a lot of Minnesota coaches and we used to play up in the iron range where I come from," Gambucci said.

Gambucci says he is not too surprised hockey has become so popular at the high school level over the last 50 years, a big part due to indoor artificial ice.

When he was coaching, most games and practices were out under the stars.

"We started at the end of November when the sun went down and then we quit about the middle of February when the ice would thaw and that was our schedule," Gambucci said.

Serge says the when they did get to play inside, arenas were nothing like they are today.

"We played indoors in Crookston. Grafton had an old rink. At the University of North Dakota they had a barn that some of these old farm barns would put them to shame," Gambucci said.

Serge Gambucci's lifetime achievements have been recognized by his peers through his induction into several halls of fame including the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth.

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