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MICHIGAN STATE BY MISTAKE

by Ross Park, Spartan hockey player in late 50s


  • Published: 11/09/2017
Ross Park was inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in October. In this historic photo from his collection, he appears with Bobby Hull. Park is on the left.
 
Here he shares the story of how he became a Spartan hockey phenom.
 
"My school odyssey to Michigan happened 61 years ago -long before the days of Google maps or GPSs! I knew roughly where Michigan was before I headed off to college with my hockey skates and my folded up map.
 
Why was I heading off to Michigan? When I was 20, I played with the Winnipeg Monarchs and many of us were contacted by the NHL scouts and the American universities.  The Detroit Red Wings put me on their negotiation list and I went to their training camp.   But because there were only 6 teams in the NHL, I felt my chance of making the Red Wings was slim. 
 
I knew Tom Rendall and a few of my other teammates had made arrangements to attend the University of Michigan on a NCAA hockey scholarship.  
 
I made my decision to do the same. I asked my Mom to pack me a lunch,  said goodbye, and headed off  in my old Chevy for Michigan. Arriving at the ferry to cross the Straits of Mackinaw, I enquired where the Michigan university was, and I was told to travel straight south to Lansing. It was dark and late when I arrived in Lansing. I asked someone who the hockey coach was, as I HAD LEFT ALL MY CORRESPONDENCE AT HOME!
 
I was told Amo Bessone and I looked up his number in a phone book and called him. He gave me my marching orders to stay put and he would come and get me. When we arrived at his home, he said it was too late to talk and that we would have to get up early in the morning for late registration. 
 
He helped me with my registration - which turned out to be a nightmare - and after registering, he mentioned that I would be rooming in Phillips Hall. I asked if my teammates, Tom Rendall and the others, were staying there as well. Amo casually told me that they must be enrolled at the Universityof Michigan, notMichigan State. It was then that I realized what I had done. I had registered at the wronguniversity!  I couldn’t believe it.
 
I phoned Rendall at the University of Michigan and told him that by mistake I had just registered at Michigan State. “No problem”, he said, “I will come to Lansing to get you”. We met a few hours later in a Lansing bar and had a number of drinks.  Now Tom was an aggressivehockey player but he could get very aggressive after a few drinks! If I had made a mess of my firstday at college, my second day was about to get worse! We ended up in jail- left there to get sober! We spent the night in the drunk tank, and the next morning I was allowed one phone call. 
 
“Hello Amo - I’ve got a problem - I’m in jail.” “WHAT, you Canadians are all the same... You can just stay there!”  And he hung up. But... Amo showed up two hours later and got us out of jail! Good old Amo...he must have had connections because we didn’t even get fined!
 
Since my arrival at Michigan State, Amo had put me up in his home the first night, helped me enroll in classes the next morning, found me a room and a roommate at Phillips Hall, got me out of jail - and if I could have read into the future, would be a positive influence in my life AND A GOOD friend until he died in his 90s. With a coach like Amo , little wonder I made the RIGHT decision and stayed enrolled at Michigan State.
 
And yes, SADLY, I played AGAINST my Monarch teammates for all my college years!"

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