Posted by: Feldman
What's everyone thankful for this year? Me? Definitely thankful for waking up with my 4-year-old's head on my shoulder today. Health, family, all that good stuff that. As Peter Griffen would say, it make a da world go around.
Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving from casa de Feldman, where as I type I cannot unsee a bunch of dudes who look a lot like me (40s, a little overweight) doing some disco dancing in short shorts and long socks on the Macy's T'giving Day Parade. I'm thankful that that is now over.
More to be thankful for: I feel fortunate to have been able to cover Rochester Mayo hockey for the past decade and to have gotten to know Lorne Grosso. He has been the Spartans head coach since Mayo High School opened in 1966. As Mayo A.D. Jeff Whitney -- who played for Grosso and later coached with him -- put it, "he's an icon. I can't imagine what Mayo hockey will look like without him."
We'll find out next winter.
As we reported two weeks ago, Grosso will retire at the end of this season, whenever that comes for Mayo. He'll retire with the most wins in Minnesota for a hockey coach. He has 694 right now; Mayo's next 'W' will put him in a tie for 2nd all-time in the United States with former Arlington, Mass., coach Edward Burns. The all-time record belongs to Bill Belisle of Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I. He has an astounding 974 victories and, I believe something like 28 state championships.
As I re-read that story from two weeks ago, I realized there was so much more about Grosso's story that needs to be told. I literally could write a book about his life. I wrote two more stories for today's P-B, which I'll link to below (or, y'know, swing out to your local convenience store and pick one up. Seriously, today's paper weighs more than 4 pounds. You can not only read about a legendary hockey coach, but you can get all the Black Friday sales fliers, too. What a deal. (OK, sales pitch over).
Like I was saying, there is so much more to Grosso than even the stories we've had on him recently can explain. I didn't even scratch the surface of who he is; the volunteer work he does through his church, with patients at Mayo Clinic, his passions for music and cooking (Italian food of course), the health problems he had a few years ago, and of course, his family. He and his backbone -- his wife, Joni -- have two daughters, a son, seven grandkids and six (soon to be seven) great-grandchildren.
I talked to nine people for today's articles and could have called a few dozen more. I had difficulty fitting comments from all of them into the stories. They all had so many good stories to tell, like former Mayo player and former JM and Century head coach Bruce Frutiger, who told a story about how after a particularly uninspiring effort in a victory by a Mayo team he played on, they didn't see a single puck hit the ice at the next day's practice. "Oh, my, did we skate," Frutiger said with a laugh. "Skating was one thing I could do well, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't finishing last ... I remember hobbling back to the locker room after that practice."
I thought I'd dig up some links to some of the stories we've written about Lorne over the years. I'm sure there have been more than these (our digital archives only go back to roughly the late 1990s), but here are some that I found and enjoyed reading again.
Frankly, I can't imagine doing anything with the same level of passion and enthusiam for 50 years (except maybe for breathing and being a parent). Grosso has done it since 1966 and as his wife, Joni, said, "He would probably do it for at least another 10 years." And the thing that has always struck me about Grosso -- and is likely the main reason he has been able to stay around for 50 years -- is that, win or lose, no matter the situation, he is always the same -- respectful, thoughtful, calm, even though, as many of his friends and colleagues told me, he's a fierce competitor, it just doesn't show externally. The lessons he taught his players -- be respectful of opponents, officials, teammates, and carry yourself with class, the way you act and dress on game days, etc. -- were designed to make them better people as much as better hockey players.
That's probably the ultimate compliment Lorne can be paid: He taught his students and players as much about how to be good people as good students/athletes.
LOOKING BACK ON GROSSO'S CAREER
NOV. 26, 2015: Grosso has impacted many lives in five decades at Mayo
NOV. 13, 2015: Grosso announces retirement from coaching hockey
FEB. 3, 2015: Neil McCormack retiring after 49 years of coaching at Mayo (McCormack and Grosso both started at Mayo when it opened in 1966 and now are retiring from their last coaching stints just a year apart)
DEC. 28, 2013: Mayo notches historic victory vs. JM at Kiwanis Festival (Mayo's win in this game marked the first time EVER the Spartans had led the all-time series against their oldest rivals. Read Grosso's quote about it; it's classic Grosso humor, and the way he'd usually start every conversation we've had).
APRIL 30, 2013: Grosso presented with Mariucci Award (This was a big honor for Grosso. He was very proud, being presented an award named after his college head coach, and an award that is presented to a coach who exemplifies dedication and enthusiasm)
JULY 9, 2012: When I wrote that he and Joni love their grandkids and great-grandkids, it's definitely the truth. Here's a story by Donny Henn about Lorne and Joni's grandson, Matt, living with them while he played for the Rochester Honkers.
JAN. 20, 2012: A history of the JM-Mayo rivalry. It'll be different next year without Grosso on the Mayo bench.
JAN. 17, 2011: Grosso a teacher first, coach second (this is part of the story that ran when he broke Willard Ikola's record for coaching victories in Minnesota. The story was split up when it was placed in the paper and I can't track down the other part ... but here's some of it)
DEC. 8, 2010: Grosso closing in on Ikola's record
APRIL 21, 2009: Grosso among 3 inducted in Rochester QB Club HOF
NOV. 26, 2003: Hockey, heritage run deep for Grosso
JUNE 9, 1999: "Peace be with you, Mr. Grosso" (Grosso retires from teaching at Mayo)