HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
January 15, 2007

One head coach to keep

By Aaron Schultz

Glen Mason, gone; Dan Monson, gone; Don Lucia, I don’t think so.

Of the three big sports teams at the University of Minnesota, there remains just one head coach – that being Lucia with the mens’ hockey team.

Both Mason and Monson got the axe, and you all know that I was a big fan of that, and I’m also a big fan of Lucia.

Over the past month, or so, all of the attention on Gopher athletics has been primarily focused on the Mason and Monson firings, and rightly so.

Both were at the university for a long time, and were head coaches of high profile sports.

But, with the new year upon us, it is now time to give it up to Lucia and the Gophers’ hockey team.

Lucia has done it right at Minnesota, has two national championships, and has the Gophers ranked number one in the nation.

Year-in and year-out Lucia gets the top recruits in the county, and when they leave early for the NHL, he just brings in some more top talent – what Ohio State is for football, the Gophers are for hockey.

Since the first game of the season, a loss to Maine, the Gophers played 22 straight games without a loss, before falling to the defending national champions Wisconsin Badgers Friday night 2-1.

Two losses in the span of nearly three months, not too shabby.

In the span of three months Mason could have found a way to loose that many bowl games – not sure how, but Mason could find a way.

During this unbelievable stretch of hockey, I have kept from writing about my favorite squad for pretty much just one reason – superstition.

I didn’t want to write something up, and then see them loose, making me to blame for the end of the winning streak.

But, with the loss Friday, I can now talk about Lucia and the Gophers without the threat of breaking the streak looming over my head.

Sitting back thinking about how Lucia turned an always strong program into the elite one in the county is just too good to believe.

It is something I had always wanted since I was a kid, and now it is here.

As I grew up watching the Doug Woog led Gophers, sure they were good, but never the elite program in the county.

It even made it tougher for me to swallow when my dad and others would start into the stories of the Gophers in the 1970s under Herb Brooks.

Brooks led the Gophers to three national championships, and made Minnesota the elite program in the country during his time here.

Well, when Woog was let go, I wanted the Gophers to hire former North Dakota head coach Dean Bias, but instead they went with Lucia.

At first I was skeptical, but that quickly changed to excitement, and the rest is now history.

Lucia is an outstanding hockey coach, and it is just amazing the job he has done for the Gophers.

What he is doing this year is just a testament to that greatness.

After losing last year to Holy Cross in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, then losing his three top offensive players, Lucia just brings in two top-10 NHL draft picks in Erik Johnson (#1 overall), and Kyle Okposo (#7 overall).

Both Johnson and Okposo have lived up to the billing of being outstanding hockey players.

There will be no more rebuilding with the Gopher hockey team, just reloading, and that’s the way it should be with the nation’s elite college hockey program.

Will the football team or basketball team ever be an elite program? Probably not, but one can only hope they find two head coaches that are somewhere near Lucia’s ability.