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Mike Peluso to be inducted into N.D. Sports Hall of Fame

Mike Peluso will be inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.

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Former Bismarck High hockey coach Mike Peluso talks during a practice in 2015. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

Mike Peluso's hockey career was a family affair from the very beginning.

"Mom was always the supportive one and dad was always the pusher," Peluso said. "It was kind of the good cop/bad cop scenario. If I wasn't putting in the effort, he was the first to let me know. He would keep me on my toes and then mom would kind of come in behind the scenes and pick me up and get me rolling again."

The pushing-support combo served Peluso well.

Peluso, a Bismarck High alum and former NHL player, will be one of four North Dakota athletes to be inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday at the Jamestown Civic Center. The ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. with a social, auction and banquet.

"It's a huge honor, there's no doubt about it," Peluso said of being inducted. "That's not something you think about when you are a young kid, you know, getting inducted into a hall of fame, but it's pretty cool to be considered amongst that category."

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Former Bismarck High hockey coach Mike Peluso watches from the bench during a game in 2011. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

A Bismarck native, Peluso took to the ice at an early age. His experience proved valuable to the Demons when, as a junior on the 1992 Demons' team, Peluso set a state single-season scoring record with 99 points in 23 games. He was named to the All-West Region Team and the North Dakota All-State Team in both his sophomore and junior years. The leading scorer for the 1992 squad helped to lead the Demons to their highest finish at a state tournament in program history, a berth into the championship game.

The Demons wound up losing to Minot 8-7.

Peluso chose to forgo his senior year of hockey eligibility at BHS to play for the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League. Peluso was a member of the Clark Cup champion Lancers in 1993 and 1994 and was selected as league All-Star and MVP both years.

Peluso first had the chance to play the game professionally in 1994 when he was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 10th round of the NHL Draft but instead chose to attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD)

While at UMD, Peluso kept racking up the honors. The BHS alum was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) All-Rookie Team in 1995, the WCHA All-Third Team in 1997. The WCHA All-Second Team in 1996 and 1998, and the WCHA All-Academic Team in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Peluso took the ice in 153 out of a possible 154 career games and racked up 80 goals and 83 assists for 163 points. – good for 16th place on UMD’s all-time scoring charts. He became the third individual to lead UMD in points for three consecutive seasons (1995-98) and reach the 20-goal mark on three occasions.

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Peluso captained the 1997-98 Bulldogs to a memorable first-round playoff series win over arch-rival Minnesota and a berth in the WCHA Final Five Tournament. Peluso was named UMD’s Outstanding Senior Male Athlete for 1997-98 and garnered the team's MVP award in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Peluso is a top 20 all-time scorer in points and a top 10 all-time goal scorer for the Bulldogs.

Following his four years at UMD, Peluso suited up for Team U.S.A. at the 2000 IIHF World Championships in Russia and then launched his NHL career during the 2001-02 season as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. He went on to play 38 NHL games with both Chicago and Philadelphia.

Peluso also played with the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates, Worcester Ice Cats, Norfolk Admirals, and Philadelphia Phantoms before retiring from the NHL following the 2003-04 season. Peluso took part in three AHL All-Star Games.

"In everything I did, I was constantly trying to get better, improve and work hard," Peluso said. "I was persistent, just constantly trying to get better and never really take a day off."

Peluso, the first Bismarck native to play in any of the four major North American sports leagues, returned to his roots following his retirement. He coached four seasons as an assistant coach with NAHL Bismarck Bobcats and a head coach for the Demons.

BHS won its first state title under Peluso in 2014 and was named state runners-up for five of Peluso's 11 seasons with the team.

"It was very rewarding being a head coach at Bismarck High," Peluso said. "Being able to go back and coach for the team that I grew up playing for and the one my dad coached for parts of 20 seasons -- it was a pretty special place."

Peluso was voted the 2013-14 high school male team coach of the year by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. He was inducted into the University of Minnesota Duluth Hall of Fame in 2016. Peluso also holds a spot in the Bismarck High Hall of Fame

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"To put this one on the board is pretty special," Peluso said of earning the state's Hall of Fame induction award.

While his parents were there to see the start of Peluso's career, the former NHLer will end it with his two daughters by his side.

"It's going to be fun," Peluso said. "(My daughters) are kind of getting to the age where they are starting to figure out that their dad did this and did that. For me, it's pretty special for them to kind of walk the past with me a little bit and reminisce."

Peluso will receive the Cliff Cushman Award and be enshrined Saturday along with Doug Beaudoin, Whitney Carlson Bruins and Jeff Boschee.

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Former Bismarck High hockey coach Mike Peluso talks during a practice in 2015. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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