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John Gilbert: Sertich withdraws to boat, returns as radio expert

With the UMD Bulldogs annual invasion of Mariucci Arena this weekend, it was easy to worry about Mike Sertich. After spending most of his lifetime, as well as ours, affiliated in some form with the UMD hockey program, this is his first season wit...

With the UMD Bulldogs annual invasion of Mariucci Arena this weekend, it was easy to worry about Mike Sertich. After spending most of his lifetime, as well as ours, affiliated in some form with the UMD hockey program, this is his first season without hockey since the year before he started as a little kid playing in Virginia, Minn.
I've called Sertie a number of times, ever since he was relieved of his coaching duties at UMD. If I ever called before dark, he was out in his fishing boat. He fished every day, all day, all summer. The only time I got him at home in daytime, I told him I was surprised and planned on getting his answering machine. Why, I asked, was he not out fishing?
"Too windy," he said.
A couple weeks ago, I got him again, and he told me he had not been fishing. "What did you do?" I asked.
"Went hunting," he said.
So I continued to worry about Sertie, and what he'd do once hockey season started and he would face serious withdrawal. Spending 12 hours a day in that fishing boat, every day, had to be getting a little old. And cold.
But Monday morning, I found him, and he seems to be OK. I was fiddling with the radio, and I thought maybe a little sports talk would be good background noise while I did a little writing. And there, on 710, good ol' WDSM AM radio, I heard a familiar voice.
Mike Sertich, after all these years as a player, and then an assistant, and then a head coach, had found the secret to becoming an expert: He joined the media.
Sertich is the host of the 9 a.m.-to-noon sports talk show on 710, Monday through Friday. I don't know if it's permanent, in fact, I didn't want to ask. I hope it is.
He did a fantastic job, I thought. You have to realize that here is a guy who never lost his cleverness, and his sense of humor and his sarcasm, when necessary, despite all those years of coaching. When other programs were locking their dressing room doors, and only allowing certain, selected players to speak to the media, with advance clearance, Sertie always opened the door. And when other coaches were carefully planning their "media-speak" to make sure they used only approved cliches and tried to never actually give out any pertinent information, Sertie was still capable of the glib, post-game remark.
For that, he often was vilified. Some reporters didn't speak "Range," and needed an interpreter to figure out what Sertie was saying. Last year, shortly after the huge academic fraud scandal had rocked Minnesota, which was not too long after the Gopher hockey mess had led to a mini-scandal at Minnesota, UMD went to Mariucci and lost two wrenching games. A Twin Cities reporter kept pushing Sertie, repeatedly asking what the biggest differences were between the Minnesota and UMD programs.
Finally, Sertie said: "The biggest differences are that they score on the power play, and we don't commit academic fraud."
Fantastic. However, after some murmuring spread, the Minnesota administration made a formal protest to the WCHA, and, believe it or not, Sertie was forced to apologize for perhaps the best spontaneous comment of the season.
Anyhow, there he is, on the radio, and I'm listening. I couldn't resist. I had to call. I told Sertie I probably covered the UMD game when he scored his goal. He said: "I've still got the shinpad I scored it with, too."
Sertie handled all sorts of calls, including one on new coach Scott Sandelin's recent roster cuts. He said he felt a little heartsick about John Conboy being cut, because he had some back problems that prevented him from playing much as a freshman last year and that he thought he'd be a good one, with some patience. And he mentioned freshman Dave Shields, who was cut right after being recruited with a scholarship to score. But he added that Sandelin had to do what he had to do, because he was hired for a position in which success was mandatory.
He covered both sides, and was typically honest. He also talked about Dale Earnhardt coming from 17th place to win a Nascar race on Sunday, about the Vikings being down 9-0 but never losing their poise or sight of their game plan against the Bears, and about Bill Cortes making the transition from media type to successful football coach at Duluth East. He even talked about Pecky Guyer, who used to play with Beefy Lawson on a Taconite Hornets hockey team that had a half-dozen amateur players who might have been NHL caliber today.
Pretty soon it was noon, and the show was over. It's amazing how much a guy can learn sitting in a fishing boat. Welcome back, Sertie.

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