March 18, 2003
Postcard: So Long, Sertie

I should have seen his retirement coming.

In a telephone conversation last month, I asked Michigan Tech coach Mike Sertich how he was doing.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t know.”

Clearly, this wasn’t the Mike Sertich that I – and the rest of the college hockey world – had grown to love. He sounded like he needed a good night’s sleep. Or a weekend on Island Lake, with nothing to disturb him other than the occasional wailing seagull and the gentle lap of a good walleye chop against the bow of his boat.

So many things made Sertich more than just a good hockey coach. He’s an interesting person, too, fascinated by the John F. Kennedy assassination theories and the music of fellow Iron Ranger Bob Dylan.

His wicked sense of humor – drier than a martini – is legendary, too. Whether he was skewering Duluth television reporters who asked him one too many generic questions or regaling people at the Great Lakes Invitational hospitality room with story after story, we’d laugh until our sides hurt.

Sertich won a few games: 375, to be exact. He led Minnesota-Duluth to three WCHA titles and the brink of an NCAA championship on two occasions. He coached the likes of Brett Hull, Tom Kurvers, Derek Plante and Chris Marinucci.

The WCHA Responds
What they're saying about Sertich
“Obviously, the second retirement is a much different circumstance from the first. I’m happy for him because he’s been able to do it the way he’s wanted to do it and look back on a terrific career.” – WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, former athletics director at Minnesota-Duluth when Sertich coached there. The two were also Bulldog teammates in the late 1960s.
“The whole league is going to miss Mike next year. He certainly had a major influence on my life and it’s nice to see that he gets to leave on his own terms this time. I think he’s leaving the program a lot better than he found it a few years ago.” – Minnesota coach Don Lucia.
“It caught me off-guard. It is nice that he goes out on his own terms. He’s one of the people…that we all respect and look to for insight.” – Colorado College coach Scott Owens.

Yet, I remember him for the night he won his 300th career game at the DECC against Harvard. He split his pants during the third period and had to walk across the ice with a towel wrapped around his waist.

Then there was the time a few years ago in the deciding game of a first-round playoff series against Minnesota when UMD rallied from a third-period deficit to send the game into overtime. Mike Peluso scored the winner in the extra session, and Sertich celebrated by sliding into the net on his back.

His victories with Michigan Tech were small, but no less significant. Taking over a team in disarray in the middle of the 2000-01 season, he helped lift struggling program with a distant history of success to respectability. With guys like Cam Ellsworth and Chris Conner in tow, the future looks bright for the new coach in Houghton.

The Huskies’ attitude was markedly different under Sertich. Players were smiling. They were laughing. They were upbeat. They were a fun group to be around. It was like having your favorite cousins over for a visit.

Look behind college hockey benches. What kind of coaches do we see? Image-conscious coaches. Coaches who say the right things, speaking in clichés. Coaches who do things by the book. They’re friggin’ basketball coaches. Pitinos with pucks.

Not Sertich. He said what was on his mind. Sometimes, the words reached his mouth before his brain had a time to perform a self-edit. No worries. That’s what made him great. He was like one of us. Hell, he was one of us.

What are we going to do without you, Coach Sertich?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

– Mike Eidelbes

About Us | Advertiser Info | Site Map | Privacy Policy
© 2003 Inside College Hockey, Inc., All Rights Reserved