The Minnesota Wild learned it has lost its longest-tenured coach, a Wild original and one of the greatest Minnesota hockey products in the state's history with Assistant Coach Mike Ramsey announcing that he would be stepping down effective immediately.
The 49-year-old Ramsey has been the Wild's assistant coach since the team's inception in 2000, and helped lead the team to a combined record of 331-291-116 and three playoff appearances. In an interview with Wild.com, Ramsey said that with three kids in high school, there wasn't going to be a better time to step aside to be with them.
"[The decision] is not something that, believe me, happened for me overnight or anything like that," said Ramsey, who informed General Manager Chuck Fletcher and Head Coach Todd Richards of his decision on Friday. "I've been in the game for 30 years now, and I've been with the Wild for 10. It's been an awesome 10 years, and at the end of the year, you start reflecting on all the things you've done with the team and the time you spent at the rink, and the travel, and this and that. Going forward, I thought it was a good time for me to step down and pursue other things."
What those other things are have yet to be determined, but they are sure to include the family man's children. His oldest daughter, Rachel, will be a senior this year, and has committed to play hockey for the University of Minnesota in 2011. He also has a son, Jack that will also be playing hockey at Minnetonka this winter, and another daughter, Hannah, who is a dancer.
"That's precious time that you don't get back," he said. "They're all in high school so it's a good opportunity for me to spend some time with them. Everybody in the hockey business knows that you spend a lot of time traveling away from home during the season. This will be a great opportunity to spend time with my family."
Never one to say or do anything without thinking first, Ramsey admitted the decision was made over time.
"This isn't something that pops in your head and you decide that you're going to walk away from it. It's something that you think about a lot and it kind of grows on you a little bit. You've got to kind of warm up to the idea a little bit."
And so ends the Wild coaching career of one of Minnesota's most storied hockey personalities - having won a national championship with the Minnesota Gophers, capturing a gold medal with the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, and playing in 1,070 NHL games and four All-Star Games before entering his coaching career.
After serving three years as an assistant for the Buffalo Sabres, he joined the staff of Jacques Lemaire in June of 2000, along with Mario Tremblay, and he's been a fixture behind the bench and in the locker room ever since. The sad fact that he won't be in either place anymore was not lost on current Head Coach Todd Richards.
"He'll be missed by the staff. He'll be missed by the players. And, he'll be missed by the fans," said Richards, who added he was surprised when Ramsey informed him of his decision.
"The bottom line for me is the personality of a coach, and Mike has a great personality. He's very respected in the hockey world, but he brought this energy and just a great passion for the game. Because of those things, he'll be missed around the locker room."
Ramsey was not only highly respected by the players, but liked by everybody who came in contact with him. The man had experienced enormous success in every level of his profession, yet he treated everyone to a smile, a joke and a friendly handshake during every interaction. He may own a gold medal, but he treated everyone else like they had one of their own.
Perhaps the only time people wanted to avoid "Rammer," was during a team flight when he was typically on edge due to his admitted fear of flying.
Despite that fear, it's a safe bet that Ramsey hasn't made his last flight on a team charter. He did admit that this likely isn't the end of his hockey career, but he wasn't sure when or what his next hockey venture would be, or at what level he may end up in.
"I don't think this is the end of Mike Ramsey in hockey," he said. "This is just a break I think."
Ramsey has certainly earned that break, but the timing of it still comes as a disappointment to Richards.
"I know [the decision] wasn't an easy one. All of us are certainly going to miss him. He did a lot of great things for the Minnesota Wild, a lot of great things for hockey in general and the state of hockey in Minnesota. He did a great job for us, and for me this past season. It's very disappointing."
Richards added that he never had any problems in his one year spent with Ramsey, and his other assistant, Dave Barr.
"I look back over the season, and one of the things is as a staff, we all got along really, really well," Richards explained. "Just like any type of relationship when you're together that much, you aren't always going to see eye to eye, but I think there was a mutual respect amongst all of us. I felt we all got along great."
Although he won't be behind the bench, Ramsey will still make his way to the Xcel Energy Center as a now unpaid member of the Team of 18,000. After all, he was a season ticket holder before he was ever a team employee.
"I'll be watching games, but I don't think I'll see all 41 home games," he joked, before adding that he sees very good things in the future of the Wild. "They've got a great group in place there, and there are good things ahead."
In addition to looking ahead, Ramsey used this time to look back, recounting how thrilled he was to get the job offer from Doug Risebrough and Jacques Lemaire, a 6-0 win over the Dallas Stars in their first return to Minnesota, the 2003 playoff run and last year's amazing comeback win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Good things happen," he said matter-of-factly. "I've been very, very fortunate to be coaching in my hometown for 10 years...Nothing but great memories."