Toninato, Peters honored

     The Bemidji Pioneer, of the Fargo Communications family, had two stories of interest Tuesday. One told of Bemidji native Jim Toninato of Duluth being named to the Bemidji High School Hall of Fame. Toninato went on to play 155 games at Minnesota Duluth as a forward from 1982-86, where he became good friends with future hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull. The Bemidji Hall of Fame story is here.

     Also, the Bemidji Regional Event Center, set to open in October as Bemidji State begins play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, has named the rink in honor of former coach Bob Peters. That story is below.

By: Bethany Wesley, Bemidji Pioneer

     The Beavers next season will compete at home on the Robert H. Peters Rink.

     The Bemidji City Council unanimously accepted a recommendation Monday night to name the ice sheet at the BREC the Robert H. Peters Rink at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

     Bob LeBarron, the executive director of the BREC, made the recommendation, stating that the gesture would recognize the contributions of the successful Bemidji State University hockey coach.

     “It gives us an opportunity to honor the individual that brought the program from its humble beginnings in 1966 to where it is now,” LeBarron told the council.

     LeBarron’s recommendation came with unanimous support from the BREC Advisory Board and BSU.

     Peters, who also served as athletic director, led the Beavers for 34 years from 1966 to 2001, when current coach Tom Serratore – a former Beaver player – took over.

     During Peters’ tenure, the Beavers won 13 national championships and progressed from the NAIA to NCAA Division III to Division II and, ultimately, to Division I.

     He compiled 702 wins as coach, making him the only collegiate coach to win 700 games at one institution. He was named a Hobey Baker Legend of Hockey in 2001.

     Further, he played an integral role in the Beavers’ admittance to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Beavers will officially join the conference this fall.

     “One of the biggest things he did was getting BSU into the WCHA,” said Bemidji Councilor Ron Johnson.

     The council voted 6-0 to adopt the name; Councilor Roger Hellquist was absent.

     “Coach Peters has dedicated much of his life toward the success of Bemidji hockey,” said Councilor Jerry Downs.

      “And to the city of Bemidji as well,” added Mayor Richard Lehmann.

     Lehmann noted that Peters played a key role in Bemidji securing $25 million in state bonding dollars to build the BREC.

     Former State Rep. Steve Sviggum even sent a letter to the city, Lehmann said, in which he stated his belief that the bonding dollars were awarded because of Peters’ work and dedication.

     Lehmann added, too, that Murray Williamson, the 1972 U.S. Olympic hockey coach, had written a letter in support of Peters.

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