Mr. Hockey: Marty Sertich taking on new challenge with St. Thomas women's program
When he went to Colorado College from Roseville, Minn., in the early 2000s, Marty Sertich broke a string of 13 straight Mr. Hockey winners who had played for the Minnesota Gophers. Entering his fourth season on the women's hockey staff at St. Thomas, he is prepping for a new challenge as the Tommies make the jump to the Division I level.
MINNEAPOLIS — Marty Sertich was born in Colorado Springs while his father, Steve, was an assistant coach for Colorado College’s hockey program. Marty’s parents met at CC while his father played hockey there. Marty’s late grandfather, Tony Frasca, was a member of the Tigers’ first national championship team in 1950 and later coached the Tigers.
The Sertich Ice Center in Colorado Springs is named after Marty’s other grandfather, Marco “Pa” Sertich.
So one might think that when Marty arrived on the CC campus in the fall of 2002, after winning Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award a year earlier as a senior at Roseville High School, it was college hockey’s version of an arranged marriage. Not so, says Marty, who is 37, retired from playing hockey and is a full-time coach and trainer in the Twin Cities. If Marty’s ‘Plan A’ would have come to fruition, one of the state’s college hockey programs might claim seven, not six, Hobey Baker Award winners today.
“I was always going to be a Bulldog. I grew up as a die-hard UMD fan,” Marty said, recalling his uncle Mike’s 18 seasons as Minnesota Duluth's head coach. “Some of my greatest memories are going to Duluth and to games at the DECC and getting to go into the locker room after games. My heroes growing up were Derek Plante and Chris Marinucci. So when my uncle left Duluth, I had a total clean slate. I was open to anything.”
Success in the West
Mike Sertich was dismissed as the Bulldogs coach in 2000, a year before Marty would post 41 goals and 63 points in his final prep season with the Raiders, which ended with him holding the Mr. Hockey trophy. Mike took over the Michigan Tech program that year, and did his best to get Marty to the Upper Peninsula. The Minnesota Gophers also made their pitch, but in the end, Marty followed his family roots to the Front Range.
“I felt super comfortable at CC, and just fell in love with the guys on the team and the campus,” Marty said, after he broke a string of 13 consecutive Mr. Hockey winners who had become Gophers. “It was the perfect place for me.”
As a junior for the Tigers, Sertich helped CC win a share of the WCHA title with 27 goals and 64 points in 42 games. Their season ended in the Frozen Four semifinals with a loss to arch-rival Denver, but there was a consolation prize of sorts a day later, when Marty took the Hobey Baker Award back to Colorado Springs. He was the second Mr. Hockey winner to also claim the Hobey, after Brian Bonin did it (1992 at White Bear Lake; 1996 for the Gophers).
“He was a great Tiger, as it turned out. We saw his talent when he was at Roseville. It seemed like every time he had the puck, something good happened,” said Scott Owens, who coached Sertich with the Tigers. “From Day 1, he was everything the Tigers program was about and he goes down as one of the program’s greats in terms of style of play, production, character and fit.”
Signed by the Dallas Stars as a free agent after his senior season, Sertich spent four hockey seasons in the Dallas and Colorado minor league systems, then spent six seasons playing professional hockey for teams in Switzerland and Germany. After retiring in 2016, Marty moved back to Minneapolis with his wife and two daughters.
He apparently caught the hereditary coaching bug from his grandfather and father, who was the head coach at Roseville for a decade and ran the women’s hockey program at Bemidji State for eight years.
“When I got done playing, I knew I wanted to coach and didn’t care if it was on the men’s side or the women’s side,” Marty said. “I knew I wanted to coach at the college level and reached out to as many programs in the Twin Cities as possible.”
New challenge with the Tommies
He heard back from University of St. Thomas women's hockey coach Tom Palkowski and Sertich is preparing for his fourth season as an assistant coach for the Tommies. With St. Thomas making the jump from NCAA Division III to Division I in 2021, Sertich’s years and connections in Europe are expected to be an asset as the Tommies look for a higher level of play for future rosters.
“The recruiting aspect is probably the biggest concern and the biggest jump that we need to get a handle on,” said Palkowski, who values Sertich’s ability to teach skills and practice habits. “We’ve never had a Canadian or European player. But Marty has a lot of connections in Europe with people he played with and coached with, so he’s been reaching out and starting to work that avenue a little, to see what we can do.”
Those duties are in addition to the full days of on-ice camps and clinics Sertich does year-round with Tradition Hockey, a program he started when he returned to Minnesota. A typical day has him in Roseville working with mites in the morning, then hustling to Blaine for an afternoon session with an older group of players.
“I work with mite-aged kids to college kids,” Sertich said. “Between that and coaching St. Thomas, I’m bouncing around, rink to rink, throughout the year.”
This version has been updated to correct the year Sertich retired.