BRUNSWICK — Walk into Farley Field House at Bowdoin College in the middle of a weekday and you’ll spot an older man chatting with someone or, perhaps, filling the washing machines or the dryers in the trainer’s room.
Go to a Bowdoin football or hockey game over the weekend and you’ll see the same tall man, wearing a Bowdoin jacket, cheering on the Polar Bears.
If you graduated from Bowdoin College in the last 57 years – especially if you played a sport, any sport – you’ll know this man’s name: Mike Linkovich, also known as “Link” or “Big Daddy.”
Linkovich came to Bowdoin in 1954 to serve as athletic trainer, a position he held for 40 years. He stayed around after “retiring” in 1994 and continues to help out on a volunteer basis to keep himself active and young.
When Linkovich was born in the hills of western Pennsylvania in 1922, Warren Harding was president, the Depression hadn’t yet brought America to its knees, and Adolf Hitler had just been named head of Germany’s Nazi party.
Linkovich, a basketball star in high school, went on to work in the steel mills, before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942. He spent two years in France and Germany, but doesn’t discuss his combat experiences.
Linkovich returned to the steel mills after the war, but eventually decided to attend Davis and Elkins College. He starred on the basketball team, even though he was 30 and playing alongside much younger players. The team was coached by Press Maravich, father of future basketball phenomenon “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
Linkovich went on to Springfield College to work on his master’s degree, and while there he received the offer to come to Bowdoin.
“The College wanted me to be the athletic trainer and soccer coach for a salary of $2,700,” he said, “but I told them I couldn’t do both.”
Because of his engaging personality – Linkovich will talk to anyone – and his ubiquitous presence at Bowdoin events, he became friends with thousands of Bowdoin students over the years. The Classes of 1958 and 1959 made him an “honorary member,” and in 1980 he received the Bowdoin Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff in recognition of his outstanding service and devotion to the college.
Many other honors have come Linkovich’s way (none of which he mentioned during an interview): Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame, Beaver County (Pa.) Sports Hall of Fame, Davis and Elkins College Athletic Hall of Fame, Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, and the American College Hockey Association Jim Fullerton Award “for one who loves the purity of sport,” just to name a few.
One more point of pride: Linkovich was a trainer for the U.S. men’s hockey team at the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid in 1980, the site of the “Miracle on Ice.”
Linkovich said he has been driven not by public recognition, but by his love of sport and his affection for people, especially young athletes.
“Playing a sport teaches you how to get along with people and how to deal with things when they go your way,” he said, “and when they do not.”
On what it takes to be a good athletic trainer: “Use your common sense. Don’t do something you’re not qualified to do.”
On what it takes to be a good coach: “You have to be able to pick the players and then get them to play together. And you have to maintain good discipline.”
On Bowdoin students: “They’re good kids and they’re pretty darn smart.”
Linkovich said he has absolutely no regrets over his decision to come to Bowdoin and to Brunswick 67 years ago.
“Being a part of the Bowdoin community is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “And Brunswick is a great place to raise a family.”
Mike Linkovich, 89, was one of two athletic trainers at Bowdoin College in Brunswick until 1994, when he retired. He still volunteers at Bowdoin’s Farley Field House a few hours each day.
One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org.