Big Ten Elite Q&A: Chuck Long & Ben Clymer

This weekend, BTN Originals rolls out two new episodes of Big Ten Elite. Highlighting some of the most legendary Big Ten teams in history, tonight’s episode will profile the national champion 1979 Minnesota Gopher hockey team and Saturday night will feature the 1985 Rose Bowl-winning Iowa Hawkeye football team.

“There are a lot of memorable teams to choose from, and there is no exact formula, but we like to profile teams that even years later fans will say, ‘Oh yeah I remember that great team,’ and then they can instantly rattle off three of the top players, and three of the best games,” said Bill Friedman, Coordinating Producer, BTN Originals.

At 8 PM ET tonight, No. 1 Minnesota hockey hosts No. 5 Boston College with Dan Kelly and Ben Clymer on the call. BTN will debut “Big Ten Elite: 1979 Minnesota Hockey” immediately after the game’s final horn.

I had the pleasure of talking with Clymer, a native Minnesotan and former Gopher standout, to discuss the hockey culture in Minnesota and his connection to this legendary squad.

Derek: When learning about what would be included in this Big Ten Elite show, what is the first memory that comes to mind? Do you remember watching highlights or hearing about the 1979 Gopher team when you were a kid?

Ben: The guys on the team who went on to compete as members of the 1980 Olympic team really jump out to me. I’ve had the opportunity to meet Mike Ramsey, and Rob McClanahan, which was really neat as a player and fan of the game. What they did and how they represented the Gopher program and the state of Minnesota can’t be underestimated. They were, and are, true heroes for all players.

Derek: How would you describe the culture of hockey in the state of Minnesota and how it helped shaped you as a person?

Ben: My favorite part about hockey in Minnesota was playing outside on the ponds. That’s where skills are developed and friendships are solidified for a lifetime. I remember carrying my skates to school so I could go straight out the rink after school like it was yesterday.

During my rookie year in the NHL, I was getting burned out playing such a long schedule and with so many games each week. During the All-Star break I went home to Minnesota and decided to bring my skates so I could play at Lewis Park in Edina and play just for the pure joy of it. It was terribly cold, but I bundled up and went out there with everything covered but my eyes. About an hour in, a guy came up to me and told me I was pretty good, and asked why I quit the game. I could only shrug my shoulders and grin under my scarf. Getting back to my roots during that break was so helpful. It made me realize what an opportunity it was to play hockey for a living.

Derek: Can you describe the pride associated with playing for the Gophers after growing up in Minnesota?

Ben: I was a huge Gopher Fan growing up, and had season tickets for a number of years. Those experiences taught me the history and culture of what it meant to be a Gopher. The honor to pull a “Maroon M” over your head is something I will always remember and always be proud of. Those nights you represent the state of Minnesota, it’s every kid’s dream, and something I was so fortunate to experience. The fraternity of former players is such a fun thing to be a part of, and it’s something I’m still very proud of to this day.

At noon ET on Saturday, Iowa football hosts Northwestern. Following the game, at 4 PM ET, is the debut of “Big Ten Elite: 1985 Iowa Hawkeyes Football.”

I also sat down with the quarterback of the 1985 Hawkeyes and current BTN analyst Chuck Long to relive some of the exciting memories, including the 12-10 victory over Michigan in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, and the last-second victory over Michigan State.

Chuck Long Then and Now

Derek: What do you remember most about the last-second wins against Michigan and Michigan State?

Chuck: Wow, some great memories of those two games. The crowd for that Michigan game was the best crowd I have ever experienced, hands down. I remember pacing up and down the sideline when we sent Rob [Houghtlin] in to attempt the game-winning field goal. After they called a timeout to try and ice him, he lined up and nailed it, and the non-stop party began.

Against Michigan State, we’re on the goal line needing a touchdown and we call a timeout to talk about the play. Coach Fry says to me, ‘You’re going to keep the ball on your hip and run it in, but don’t tell anyone.’ I tried to talk him out of it by saying, ‘We have no timeouts, if I don’t get in, time might run out.’ He goes, ‘Charlie, don’t worry, you’re going to be wide open.’ Sure enough, everyone bit on the fake, the safety got sucked in, and I walked in to the endzone untouched.

Derek: What is it like taking a trip down memory lane and sharing these types of stories?

Chuck: I absolutely love it. I recently moved back to the state of Iowa, so I’m always getting people coming up to me wanting to hear stories. They want to be able to pass them down from generation to generation. Sometimes a three-touchdown game becomes a four or five touchdown game when the stories get repeated, but that just makes it that much better.

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