Tom Kurvers, a Wild assistant general manager who won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player in 1984 for Minnesota Duluth, passed away Monday because of cancer. He was 58.
Kurvers, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer, early in 2019. The cancer spread and he was away from the Wild for most of last season.
Born in Minneapolis, Kurvers spent 11 seasons as a defenseman in the NHL before starting a front office career.
After skating for Bloomington Jefferson's first high school hockey state tournament team in 1980, Kurvers played at UMD as the program rose to prominence in the early 1980s under coach Mike Sertich. Kurvers won the Hobey Baker in 1984 after leading the Bulldogs to the national title game — where they were beaten by Bowling Green in four overtimes — with 18 goals, 58 assists and 76 points in 43 games. Also the WCHA player of the year and an All-America that season, he finished his college career with 192 points in 124 games.
"He was certainly gifted, but everybody knew about his work ethic, his ability to reach outside himself to help younger players and lead the older players," Sertich said. "He had total respect in the room, from players to coaches to support staff.
"He led by example and had great values, and he lived those on and off the ice."
Sertich, 74, last spoke with Kurvers two weeks ago. The level of hockey Kurvers played during his time at UMD helped "put us on the national map," Sertich said.
Bill Watson, himself a Hobey Baker Award winner, played two seasons at UMD with Kurvers, and they remained lifelong friends. Kurvers was a "driving force" of the team's success, Watson said.
Despite its strong run in the 1980s, UMD would not win its first national championship until 2011. Watson was an assistant coach for that team, which won the title in overtime by beating Michigan at Xcel Energy Center, and he remembers then-captain Mike Montgomery handing the trophy to Kurvers after the game.
"It was so cool to see [Kurvers] bury the hatchet from 1984; to see how much it meant to him," Watson said. "He was always a Bulldog."
Kurvers played for Montreal, Buffalo, New Jersey, Toronto, Vancouver, Anaheim and the New York Islanders during his NHL career, winning a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986. Noted as a power-play specialist, he had 93 goals and 328 assists in 659 NHL games.
He played a final season in Japan before working for the Coyotes, first as an assistant coach, then eventually becoming Arizona's director of player personnel. He was interim general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010, and stayed with the Lightning as a senior adviser until 2018 when he was hired as Wild assistant GM by Paul Fenton.
"There are a lot of terrific people in the hockey world, but Tom stood out as the nicest, kindest and most humble," Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois told the Associated Press. "He was grateful for all the good that happened in his life and was eager to give back. He was very generous with his advice and very insightful."
Kurvers was interim GM for a two months after Fenton was fired in June, 2019, until Bill Guerin was hired.
"Tom's passion for and success in hockey could only be surpassed by the love and optimism he shared with his family and friends each and every day," the Wild said in a statement. "We join the State of Hockey in mourning the loss of a great hockey player and an even better person."
Kurvers is survived by his wife, Heather, and four children.