Prep boys hockey: Duluth Marshall’s Brendan Flaherty honored at Mars Lakeview Arena
Local artist Tim Cortes memorialized the longtime Hilltoppers’ coach with a colored pencil painting that will be displayed in the lobby of the arena he helped build.
DULUTH — Duluth Marshall and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton faced off Thursday at Mars Lakeview Arena in Duluth.
The Hilltoppers lost 4-2, but the highlight of the night wasn’t the hockey played, but honoring one of the driving forces behind the arena’s construction.
During the first intermission, longtime Hilltoppers coach Brendan Flaherty was memorialized in a short ceremony with his family.
Flaherty died June 24 after a 3-year cancer battle and his family was presented with a colored pencil painting by Duluth artist Tim Cortes. Flaherty’s wife Carrie will receive the original piece, and a larger copy will hang in the mezzanine of Mars Lakeview Arena.
The painting includes Cortes’s reproductions of photos of Flaherty at various points in his career, with a centerpiece showing Flaherty walking through the tunnel at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Flaherty guided the Hilltoppers to the state tournament seven times, including four straight appearances between 2005 and 2008. He also spent two seasons at Duluth Central, guiding the Trojans to the state tournament in 1996.
Cortes, a goalie at Duluth East, recognized Flaherty’s time at Duluth Central with the Trojans’ logo in the background of the piece. Cortes played with and against Flaherty in high school and the two were good friends. Flaherty already has several pieces from Cortes and the artist didn’t give it a second thought when asked to do this for his old friend.
The emotions were running high for Flaherty’s family and Cortes when he unveiled the piece.
“I got a little choked up, especially when I saw Carrie and I gave her a hug,” Cortes said. “To see her — it’s been hard. My brother recently passed, my sister recently passed nine days later. All cancer. So this became really special because of that and it was emotional — it still is.”
Flaherty, a 1982 graduate of what was then Duluth Cathedral, was remembered as someone who taught not just hockey skills, but life skills. He also encouraged his players to participate in many sports and support the other Hilltoppers teams.
“Those are the smaller things he did that don’t end up on a banner,” Marshall athletics director Kevin Snyder said. “But those are the things that resonate with me and I think resonated with the boys who played for him.”
While Flaherty is most remembered for his talented Hilltoppers squads, he was also instrumental in bringing an on-campus facility to Marshall. When Mars Lakeview Arena opened in 1999, Flaherty took over as rink manager after working as a physical education teacher at Piedmont and Morgan Park schools.
Steve Ruud worked with Flaherty the last five years of his career as the Marshall junior varsity coach and assistant rink manager. He took over as manager when Flaherty retired in 2019.
Flaherty was an understanding person who allowed the people he worked with to try new things and was understanding if it didn’t work out — whether it was players or or coworkers.
“He never made you feel bad for things you did,” Ruud said. “Maybe you tried something you’ve never tried before, he’d never make you feel bad about that. He might just point out a different way to do it and the way he did those things just made it so comfortable.”
Flaherty kept the arena running smoothly and tried to make improvements before they became an issue, making small changes like replacing the lights with more efficient bulbs early, Ruud said.
“This place was like a second home to him,” Ruud said.
Joining Carrie on the ice for the ceremony were Flaherty’s daughter Morgan and stepson Kasey Yoder. Morgan contributed some words that will be displayed in the arena above the painting. She said honoring her father at the arena was “natural.”
“We only lived like a block away from here and he was here all the time,” Morgan said. “I grew up here and I know my brother, for sure, grew up here too…We miss him terribly and we know that this is a big, important part of his life and we’re just honored to be a part of it.”
Lumberjacks get a ‘needed’ win
CEC was desperate for a win, coming into the night on a three-game skid.
The Lumberjacks went down early, but Patrick Dunaiski and Wyatt Mrozik each scored in the first period to keep the game tied at two during the first intermission.
Goalie Jacob Walsh shut the Hilltoppers down in the final two periods, while Dayne Painovich scored on a breakaway goal in the second period and Jace Stewart a shorthanded goal in the third period to give CEC the win.
“Our structure was good on the forecheck and we made some adjustments on our breakout which benefited us,” CEC coach Shea Walters said. “We were able to stretch the zone a little bit, which helped us.”
Mrozik’s two points came at critical time and was “probably the best game he’s played in his high school career,” according to Walters.
“We needed a win, we really did,” Walters said. “We’ve been on a streak, so getting a win was absolutely paramount.”
This article was edited at 1:12 p.m. to correct a reference to the former Cathedral High School and Duluth Central's state championship history and to make a first reference to Marshall athletic director Kevin Snyder. It was originally posted at 8 a.m. The News Tribune regrets the errors.