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More than a half-century later, Middlebury’s ace on the ice still dominates scoring records

Phil Latreille’s slap shot set him apart in college hockey

With a hard and accurate slap shot and the help of a number of talented teammates, Phil Latreille etched his name in the college ice hockey record books. He has been inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame and the Middlebury Hall of Fame. Middlebury College Photo

When Phil Latreille played ice hockey for Middlebury, he was in a class by himself as a goal scorer. More than 58 years have passed since he graduated, and nothing has changed. He is still the greatest goal scorer in college hockey history.

The numbers he put together during his four-year career at Middlebury were truly staggering. He scored 10 goals in a game against Colgate in 1960, while no other player has ever even reached nine. As a junior in 1961, he scored 80 goals, a ridiculous total considering the next closest in the record books is 71 and no one else in the NCAA has scored even 60 in a season. His career total of 250 goals is more than 40 goals ahead of second place on the list and more than 80 goals ahead of third place.

“With the changes to the game, no one will ever touch those records,” longtime Middlebury hockey coach Bill Beaney said. “For one, the skating of all the players is so much better than it used to be. Second, the goaltenders are so much more protected and have larger equipment than back then, as well. Also, coaching has continued to improve, so strategically they have found ways to shut down individual players.”

What separated Latreille from the rest of the crowd was his slap shot.

“When he played, Phil was probably 5-9 and between 195 and 201 pounds,” Middlebury teammate Chuck Gately said. “He was very strong physically and could shoot as hard as anyone in the world. As a goal scorer, he was far and above the best player I ever played with or against.”

Beaney added, “He was ahead of his time with his slap shot that was not only hard but very accurate, which players at that time just didn’t have. He was also strong on his skates, had a great hockey sense  and when he went to shoot, players weren’t exactly lining up to block his shots.”

Not only could he shoot and score, but he had the good fortune of teaming up with some other outstanding players, including Dates Fryberger, who later played on the 1964 U.S. Olympic team. Playing with talented individuals such as Fryberger helped him amass 346 points in his career on 250 goals and 96 assists, only 13 points behind the all-time leader despite playing 58 fewer games. Middlebury compiled a 61-23-1 record during his career despite playing against some of the top teams in the nation, as it was before the NCAA had divisions.

In fact, the Montreal native was so impressive in his collegiate career that even the NHL couldn’t help but take notice. After his senior season he signed a tryout contract with the New York Rangers, which lasted four games as the professional season was coming to an end. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that there were only six teams in the NHL at the time.

“Going to the pros from college was literally unheard of back then,” Beaney said. “Nobody was able to do that, but Phil had such a unique skill set with the slap shot that the Rangers took a chance on him.”

After his brief stint with the Rangers and three seasons with minor-league teams, Latreille began a career in the building materials industry, eventually founding a door and window manufacturing company in Neenah, Wisconsin. He raised three children with his late wife, Eileen, whom he met at Middlebury.

Those who saw Latreille play have not forgotten his feats on the ice.

“I saw him do things all the time that I never saw anybody else do before,” said Gately, who was the team’s goalie and played with Latreille for three years (1959-61). “We had a game against Dartmouth where their top defenseman, who was a big player and was all-Ivy League, tried to stop him. Phil got the puck at center ice, and the defenseman came to hit him. But Phil sent the puck off the boards and just went through him and then got the puck off the bounce and went in and scored. It was one of those moments where you couldn’t believe what you just saw. I never saw anyone else like him.”

Goals in a Game

10        Phil Latreille, Middlebury vs. Colgate      February 1960

8          Glen LaChapelle, Wis.-Stout vs. Wis.-Stevens Point         1972-73

8          Gerald Mahoney, Tufts vs. Massachusetts          1953-54

8          Bob Wheeler, Brown vs. Springfield       Jan. 31, 1952

8          Bill Sullivan, North Dakota vs. North Dakota St.   Feb. 27, 1948

Goals in a Season

80        Phil Latreille, Middlebury          1961

71        Marv Degon, Worcester St.        1972

59        Mike Donnelly, Michigan St.      1986

57        Dave Merhar, Army West Point 1969

56        Jerry Walker, Denver     1961

56        Dates Fryberger, Middlebury     1962

Goals in a Career

250      Phil Latreille, Middlebury          1958-61

209      Marv Degon, Worcester St.        1972-75

166      Dave Lair, Oswego St.    1980-83

160      Dates Fryberger, Middlebury     1960-63

156      Chuck Delich, Air Force  1974-77

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.