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.
know,” he replied. “I don’t know.”
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
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.
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
they're saying about Sertich
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
know. I don’t know.