In the four years I spent in Bemidji, I like to believe that I was more than just a college student. Unlike most of the others, I hunted the grouse trails and duck ponds, fished the lakes, camped in the woods. But most of all, I was part of the fabulous organization of Beaver hockey, and came to know what for nearly 50 years has been one of Bemidji’s greatest treasures: Bob Peters.
You live with him day to day in this town, and while you may appreciate him, you cannot really understand who this man is until you have been away for a long time. I recently returned for a brief stay in the town that I never stopped loving and savoring every moment I was here from 1970-74. Coach Peters showed me and my wife the Sanford Center, its incredible décor, its state-of-the-art facility, its promise for the future. For three and a half hours, he took me, a lowly student manager visiting from Alaska, through the sights and sounds of the place where current players are reminded: "You are standing on the shoulders of those who came before you" and where former ones are assured, "You are never forgotten."
Bob Peters is a rich man: not necessarily in material things, but in the legacy that he gave to so many thousands of students and players. Many of them also became teachers and coaches such as he, and his indelible mark is sensed in the same way by still other young people, like an extended family knows what the patriarchal grandparent or famous uncle contributed to them and their identity as human beings.
I understand that the Sanford Center is rightfully named for the tremendous generosity of its sponsor, but I also believe that Bob Peters deserves more than just his name painted on the ice. The Minnesota Twins named the drive-up to the Metrodome "Kirby Puckett Place" and the citizens of Green Bay have "Lombardi Avenue." Cannot the great and historic city of Bemidji do the same for one of its most distinguished citizens? Rather than simply "Event Center Drive" as the official address, the moniker "Bob Peters Place" as the drive-up to the Sanford Center and its expanding environs would justly serve the legacy of a man who for a half century has made a lasting contribution to the cultural, athletic and educational standards of northern Minnesota.