John Taft remembers his father building a small rink in the front yard of their southwest Minneapolis house when he was four years old. He learned to skate on that rink, pushing a chair in front of him for balance. Taft kept that chair and 40 years later his children first learned to skate pushing the same chair. Taft quickly learned to skate without the chair and his abilities as an offensive defensemen led him to a Minnesota State High School Championship, two NCAA Championship, Captain of the 1976 Olympic Team and playing in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings.
Pershing Park was Taft’s home rink and his organized hockey career began with the SWAC Park Board Team before he moved on to the Southwest Peewees and then Bantams. He was a true rink rat and recalls not only spending all winter at Pershing with the Hall of Fame Lundeen brothers but often eating dinner at the Lundeen house before heading back to Pershing.
Taft played three years of varsity hockey for Southwest High School, winning the State Championship as a sophomore in 1970 and being named to the All-TournamentTeam in 1971 and 1972. He then moved on to Wisconsin, not only winning the 1973 NCAA Championship as a freshman, but also being named to the All-TournamentTeam. Taft played three seasons for Wisconsin while also playing each year for the USA in the World Championships, where he was named to the 1974 All Tournament Team. He then took the 1975-76 season off from Wisconsin to play for and be Captain of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team. Taft returned to Wisconsin for his senior season where he again led Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament and was again named to the All-Tournament Team. Taft finished his Wisconsin career with 36 goals and 95 assists in 129 games.
Taft had been drafted 81st overall in the 1974 draft by the Detroit Red Wings and also by the WHA’s Phoenix team. After graduating from Wisconsin he played for the Red Wings in the 1978-79 season, ultimately retiring as a player in 1983. Taft emphasizes how fortunate he was to grow up in the perfect hockey climate of southwest Minneapolis and also playing for legendary coaches and follow Minneapolis Hockey Hall of Famers Dave Peterson at Southwest and Bob Johnson at Wisconsin. He is still involved with hockey as the Manager of the Marketing Department for USA Hockey.
Congratulations to John Taft on entering the Minneapolis Hockey Hall of Fame. Visit the Hall of Fame to find out more about Minneapolis Hockey's amazing history.....CLICK HERE
1976 USA Olympic Team - Captain Taft in back row, third from right with fellow Mpls HOFers Bob Lundeen & Bob Johnson (1st & 2nd rows left side)
1972 Minneapolis Southwest High School Squad
Minneapolis Southwest High School Varsity - 1970-1972
University of Wisconsin Badgers - 1972-1975; 76-77
USA National Team (World Championships) - 1973-1975
USA Olympic Team 1976 - Captain
Drafted 81st Overall in the NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings - 1978-1980
Kansas City Red Wings - CHL – 1978-1979
Adirondack Red Wings - AHL - 1979-1980
St. Louis Blues – 1980-1983
Salt Lake City Golden Eagles - CHL - 1980-1983
Captain Taft playing against Germany in the 1976 Olympics (Innsbruck)
Taft Finished His Career With the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles
1976 Olympics - Exchanging Gifts with Soviet Union Superstar Boris Mikhailov
One of fellow Hall of Famer Badger Bob Johnson's Recruits
1973 Wisconsin Badgers - National Champs
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