A Golden Reunion: 1945 Boys Hockey State Tournament Medal Returns Home to Eveleth

After sending out a tweet honoring his grandfather's 1945 state title win, Phill Drobnick got a special surprise from the MSHSL.

EVELETH, Minn. – Eveleth native Phill Drobnick is a big fan of gold. He was the head coach of the U.S. men’s curling team, aka Team Shuster, who won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics. And last week, he received another gold medal that has a story not even Hollywood could come up with.

Back in 1945, the MSHSL hosted its first-ever boys hockey tournament. Eveleth defeated Thief River Falls 4-3 to become the inaugural champions. The date brought back memories for Phill Drobnick, whose grandfather Ron, played goalie for the Golden Bears. And just like they do now, each player was given a gold medal.

“The Minnesota State High School League confirmed that there was 11 given out. When my grandmother passed away in 2013 and we were cleaning out the house, I found the third place medal,” Drobnick said.

That medal was from 1946. The gold one from 1945 was no where to be found. That is until last week, when Drobnick sent out a tweet honoring the 1945 Eveleth team, which was seen by John Millea, who works with the MSHSL.

“I saw that. I remembered the medal in my drawer. I sent a private note on Twitter to Phill. And I assumed they had his grandpa’s medal,” said Millea.

“John reached out to me and sent me a direct message and said “Hey, we have a medal from the 1945 championship team that was lost that is sitting in our desk and we’d like to donate it to the family. Would you guys be willing to accept it?,” Drobnick said.

So how did the medal end up with Millea? A Minnesotan from Austin, TX found it in a box of items from a Goodwill and sent it back to his homestate.

“I had to read the tweet a couple times because I was pretty in awe that they would have a random medal sitting there from 1945. And I reached out to them right away and said “on behalf of the family, I’d absolutely like to accept it and like to get that medal back home to Eveleth and hopefully be able to share it with the community,” Drobnick said.

“So the next day, we met. To see him open that up and hold that in his hand, it just was priceless,” said Millea.

No one knows if that medal belonged to Drobnick, but everyone agrees that it’s now in the right place.

“Obviously it’s been all over the country. About the farthest point it could get from Northern Minnesota, down in Texas, so to be able to get that back up here is pretty cool,” said Drobnick.

“I’ve been writing about sports and humans for 40 years. This is the most unbelievable twist of fate I’ve ever seen, in a good way too, obviously,” Millea said.

For John Millea’s story on the reunion, click here.

Categories: High School, Sports