Duluth East's Randolph to return as boys hockey coach
Louie St. George IIIlstgeorge@duluthnews.com A year ago, Mike Randolph was hesitant to commit to another season of coaching the Duluth East boys hockey team in the immediate wake of the state tournament. Randolph was retiring from teaching at Sto...
Louie St. George III
A year ago, Mike Randolph was hesitant to commit to another season of coaching the Duluth East boys hockey team in the immediate wake of the state tournament. Randolph was retiring from teaching at Stowe Elementary School and his son, Jake, was preparing to embark on a college career at Nebraska-Omaha.
While the venerable East coach wasn’t quite ready to hang up his whistle, he also wasn’t ready to miss Jake’s freshman season. So Randolph worked out a deal with his players’ parents and East athletic director Shawn Roed that would allow him to delegate coaching duties to assistants Brendan Brooks and Dylan Mills on weekends so he could follow the Mavericks around the NCHC.
The success of that arrangement - to say nothing of the underdog Greyhounds’ run to last weekend’s Class AA title game at Xcel Energy Center - has Randolph singing a different, more emphatic, tune this March.
“Oh yeah, I’ll be back for sure,” he said during a recent conversation. “Based on the parents allowing me to go see my son play the same as this year, I’ll be back. I plan on being there long-term.”
Randolph estimates he missed about five or six of East’s 31 games.
“It was seamless; there weren’t any issues at all,” he said.
The conversation eventually gave way to junior hockey, life as a puck junkie and, of course, the postseason, where the Greyhounds won five games in a row to reach the most improbable state final of Randolph’s career.
Here are snippets of the interview with the candid coach, who has 561 victories in 26 seasons at East.
Randolph on coaching without teaching:
“To be in Lakeville North (which East played on a Tuesday night in January), have a game, get on the bus about 10 o’clock or 10:30 and know that I don’t have to face the fourth-graders, who really don’t care how tired I am, that was awesome.”
Randolph on life at the rink:
“I work camps during the summer. You know, a lot of guys go golfing, go fishing, and I just enjoy (hockey). I enjoy the relationships that I’m able to form.”
Randolph on those relationships:
“It’s really cool how many alumni text me or email me or call me during the state tournament. I know that the experiences they’ve had, they reflect back every state tournament. My own son reflects back on those days; they never forget ’em. When you’re in high school you don’t realize it, but like I told this group, this is something they’ll never forget. They’ll always remember it.”
Randolph on losing the state championship game:
“People ask me about the tears. It wasn’t tears of losing. It was tears of … a great run ended and a lot of these kids don’t know if they’ll be playing hockey again. It’s a tough deal when you play hockey your whole life, the last time ever being with your buddies. Lot of emotions.”
Randolph on players leaving high school early for juniors:
“You can’t replace that. Once kids come back when their college careers are over, guess what? They don’t hang out with their junior buddies; they hang out with their high school buddies. Those are relationships that started when they were real young and should carry through their high school years because those are their real friends.”
HERMANTOWN’S PLANTE ALSO PLANS TO RETURN
Another of the Northland’s hockey coaching icons, Hermantown’s Bruce Plante, will be back in 2015-16 as well.
Plante, much as he’s done in recent years, is taking it season by season, but he already has told his staff that he will be on the bench for another go-round with the six-time consecutive Class A runners-up.
Hermantown once again should be strong next season, with key returners including Cole Koepke, Luke Olson, Wyatt Aamodt and Eric Gotz.
Plante has 491 career wins.
The Minnesota State High School League announced new section assignments for the next two years, and one of the more bizarre placements is Royalton in Section 7AA for football. Royalton is about 20 miles northwest of St. Cloud.
-- And Section 7AA gets tougher in boys basketball with the addition of perennially strong Crosby-Ironton.
-- Former Grand Rapids standout Alex Illikainen, whose Brewster (N.H.) Academy team just won a prep school national championship, will participate in the March 24 Border Battle all-star game at Romano Gym.
-- Hermantown’s Nate Pionk is playing with the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League. Grand Rapids’ Mitchell Mattson, meanwhile, is with the Bloomington Thunder in the United States Hockey League. Mattson, a junior, has committed to North Dakota.
-- Former Duluth East star Dave Spehar tweeted this during the hockey state tournament: “That time of year when the north hates the metro and the metro hates private schools, and everyone hates Edina.”