What is your earliest memory in hockey?
I remember listening to the North Stars with Al Shaver as the play-by-play person. In fact, I had a little portable tape recorder and I remember taping his play-by-play and emulating him, copying the phrase, “He shoots, he scores.”
I was a huge North Stars fan. I remember the first game my dad took me to, just being in awe as I walked into the Met Center and looked down at this bright ice. I just was amazed at the whole environment of it.So, how is it that you wound up coaching hockey?
I had to write a thesis at Princeton, which was really difficult and wore me out a little bit. When I got home, I was not in a big hurry to get a full-time job. I did want to try coaching, but there were no girls’ hockey coaching opportunities at that time.
I was working at the comb company, a mail-order company close to home, where my sister worked, so I ended up working there while I was also coaching different levels of volleyball, basketball and softball through the Wayzata school district.
I was there at the comb company when I got a call from the new Princeton coach, asking about me being his assistant, and that was 1987. I had just bought my first car and had a car payment, so I was interested but didn’t think I could afford to do it. He helped me with a part-time job and housing, and so I did that for a couple years. I actually had to save up in the offseason in order to get back, but that’s what you do when you have an interest and a passion in doing something.When the successes at Minnesota started coming to your teams, how much did you feel elite talent was its root cause?
We had high-powered teams, but talent alone is not going to get you where you want to go. I want to believe that we preached the team-first mentality and being a team. You can’t win with just a couple of players. We had some special groups of young women who came together as teams and got the job done on the ice.
Yes, there was a high level of talent here, especially during certain seasons, but, at the same time, a lot of people – and I’m talking support staff, coaches, administrators – worked very hard to create the culture, the atmosphere and the resources that went into women’s hockey.Do you look back and see yourself or your program as a pioneer?
To me, that word kind of means, “Yeah, she’s old.” I’ll leave others to judge it, but my job was to do the best job that I could in each place. Murray Williamson told me early on that I was the caretaker of the program and it was my job to do the best I could as the caretaker of Gopher women’s hockey, and then I would pass that along to the next caretaker. And it wasn’t about me. It was about the program and I truly believe that. I am proud of where the program is now. My goal was to lay a firm foundation doing things the right way but also by being successful on the ice and winning.Was there a series of decisions that led to you not coaching this season?
When people ask me why I didn’t want to coach anymore, it really is difficult to answer. There were a handful of factors that went into my decision. I did the math, first of all, and I realized I had coached 20 years, and that was a nice round number. We were celebrating our 10-year anniversary of the program, which was a milestone. And I reached an age, 45, where I still have to work for many years, but I couldn’t see myself going at the pace I was going and doing what I was doing for the rest of my working career. I said, “You know what? I’m going to have to figure out something else at some point. Why not now?”What is it that you miss the most now that you’re no longer coaching?
As time has gone by, what I continue to miss is the interaction with the players. They were really the reason why I coached. When you get to pick who’s on your team, it’s a very special thing. You do feel in a way that they’re part of your family. So I miss that interaction, hanging out with them, joking around and watching them develop and grow as hockey players as well as people.
I’m fortunate that I’m still at the University and I do go to a lot of the home games. I thought I would miss games a little bit more than I do. I miss the winning, but I certainly don’t miss the losing. I’ve been able to keep my blood pressure pretty consistent these days, and that’s a good thing.
Bob Breau | Commissioner, Minnesota Junior Hockey League
Erik Johnson | Defenseman, St. Louis Blues
Doug Johnson | Editor, Let's Play Hockey
Doug Woog | Former Minnesota Gophers Head Coach
Bob Naegele, Jr. | Former Chairman, Minnesota Wild &
Norm Coleman | Former U.S. Senator and Mayor of Saint Paul
Laura Halldorson | Former Gopher's Women's Coach
Phil Housley | Former NHL Player and High School Coach
Lou Nanne | Former NHL Player, Coach and General Manager