Over the course of about a week a message board
on Minnesota Hockey had 61 posts on the thread concerning the Duluth East Hockey
coaching situation. After the initial burst of incredulous and outraged posts
came this one. It really turned the discussion around.
(4/27/03 12:14:37 pm)
i dont know if this will make sense. and maybe will open up a can of worms. this is not sour grapes as some people may say. because i played for coach, i was not cut and dont have a grudge to hold. i also dont live there anymore, so i dont have to deal with repurcussions of what i say. and again, this is my experience. and maybe other players will put their experiences out there.
i am a former player and coach in the duluth east program. my senior year was coach randolphs first year. i loved playing for him. there were certain things said that just made you want to play - "i will give you the recipe, follow it and you will win". i would also like to think that my senior year was the building block of what the players are experiencing now.
i had a friend who was cut. this player sold the most wreaths that year. and coach told us, i dont care how many wreaths you sell (i think we had to sell like 6), it is what you do on the ice, that is how you make this team. we as players understood this. if you worked hard, you played. we as players liked this, hey what you do on the ice should determine who will make the team. i would hate to see a player make it because they could sell things, but could not play or help the team. although, i think this player could have helped us. but again, we all see things a little differently.
now a completely different side of coach. as the older brother of another player who played for coach. my brother hated playing for coach. his senior year, coach would stand by the front door and ask when he was going to quit. why not quit and give me your jersey. why put up with this, why not quit. he came home and would tell me this. i was a coach with the bantam a's and peewee a's (randolph selected these coaches) at the time. i kept telling my brother, you are not working hard enough. he does not ride your a**, unless you are not working hard. quit whining and work. i did not believe him. but, at games he seemed to be doing what i remember as the right things in coach's system, and because the teams would practice together every now and then, i saw the way he practiced - which i had no complaints with. and trust me, i was always on my brothers rear end about working hard. so i was confused. i mean, i am backing my former coach, against my brother and my family. but something is not right here.
and he did not quit. so coach pulled 3 seniors into a room 2 games before playoffs. told them they would not be on the tournament team, unless they proved their worth. my parents, without my brother knowing, called the athletic director to discuss this with him. my aprents wanted me to talk to coach, but i went against them, told them it was not my business, he had to earn the ice. my brother went out and scored 2 goals in the win. he was kept on the team for the playoffs, the other two were let go. right before playoffs. 1 of those seniors was an alternate (got to practice in the clear glass rink) on the 91 team that took second.
to this day, i kick myself in the butt for not listening to my little brother. i did not know he was sneaking out at night to go to the rink to shoot pucks at midnight. why, because it was fun. how do i know, because i followed him one night. and confronted my teary eyed little brother. he told me he loved the game, but could not take the constant mental anguish of going to practice, coach made his life a living hell - and he could not understand why. and this was a way to help deal with it. is this what hs sports are about?
other stories were told of players being cut on the bus back from scrimmages. asked to meet with coach in the front of the bus, then cut and now that player has to ride back with ex teammates for the next hour or so. we all heard these stories, we all cringed. all former players said, how could coach do that. these were also former players that i had the priviledge to coach, they were telling me these things when i saw them at the rink.
as a coach in the system, i relayed to my players how great coach was. and you wanted to play for him. we taught the same systems, and i expressed to those kids how you could not explain what it feels like to put that east sweater on for the first time. and some of those players came back and said, why did you not tell us about the other side of playing for him? because i did not know that side as a player.
and does coach recruit, yes he does. i was asked by coach at a clinic to try to persuade a player from another school to come and play at east. at the time, the kid said no. but a couple of years later, the kid was wearing the hound sweater. at the time, i always thought that was just common practice.
but who cares about that other side or recruiting, he won. and he taught that program to win the big game, where before no one else had. that is why players love him. that is why parents are sticking up for him. some may not, if they knew about the other stuff.
but in the back of my head, i kept thinking, when is someone going to stand up to the czar of east hockey. when is something going to be done, when a kid puts a bullet in his head because of these mental games that coach plays with players, now that might seem drastic to some of you - but some of you never played in east system and dont know what it is like growing up and being a hockey player in the east end. you are nothing until you put that sweater on, it makes and breaks kids - emotionally and socially (the friend i mentioned above, selling the most wreaths and still got cut - lost his girlfriend and started drinking - that is what it means to play or not to play for that program). wake up - it's reality.
and dont knock those parents for sticking up for their boys. if you were a parent, you too would want what is best - and sometimes you dont always think clear on it.
and the stars dont know anything about this side of coach. it is the 3rd - 5th line kids. spehar would not know anything about this, because since he was a 9th grader, he never got this treatment. the stars of the program never saw this, if you want the real truth, talk to the 3rd line guys.
please dont get me wrong, i love that program. i get excited to see my former school in the state tournament. i am so happy for those players. but i am not happy for the coaching staff, except terry johnson and todd wentworth. both are great guys. i coached with both them (although todd and i were not always on the same page), and i respect both of them alot. i hope terry reconsiders and continues to help that program.
would i like to see coach back, this is a difficult question. i am on the fence. he is a winner (and my father always said - the fricken guy wins, how can you get rid of someone who keeps winning - people are blinded by the success).
i just think the way it was handled is not right. let the players know why, no one else needs to know. dont keep hush on it.
if these are the reasons, i can see why they got rid of him. he is a great coach, and belongs in a college setting.
i have said way too much.