Posted by: Feldman
I can't imagine how Lorne Grosso will feel when he steps foot on the Rochester Mayo bench before today's game, when he coaches the Spartans against rival Rochester Century, then when he walks off the Graham Arena ice after a game for the final time.
I've known Grosso for 10 years. It'll be odd for me to see him do that. I can't imagine how it'll feel for a guy who has done that for 50 years, a coaching career that has spanned all or parts of six decades.
This is really it.
Mayo will play Century today, then likely go play at Farmington or Lakeville South on Thursday in a Section 1AA quarterfinal game. If the Spartans can pull an upset, they'll be back in Rochester a week from today, playing in the Section 1AA semifinals.
But they won't play another game at Graham.
We've written a lot about Grosso this season, and deservedly so. He announced just prior to the start of the season that this would be his last on Mayo's bench, a farewell tour of sorts.
It's a decision he came to late last summer and finalized with Mayo A.D. Jeff Whitney — a former player and co-coach — early in the fall.
A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking on the phone with Grosso one evening after one of Mayo's games. He jokingly said to me, "(Whitney) hasn't hired anyone. Maybe I'll come back next year and see if I can get to seven decades. Wouldn't that be something?" He didn't get the last few words out when his wife and biggest supporter, Joni, cut him off -- "NO YOU WON'T!!" she said.
It will certainly be different going to the rink next winter and not seeing Grosso there.
Like I said, I've known Lorne for 10 years and, though the time I spend talking with him is but a small fraction of his day, he treats me like he treats everyone else -- he treats me the way he'd like to be treated if he was in my shoes. That's a rare thing to find someone who treats everyone that way.
I was thinking over the past few days about some of my favorite coach Grosso stories. It struck me that, after hearing him talk for 10 years about the life lessons he teaches his players and hearing him talk about doing things the right way, that's what has rubbed off on me the most.
Sure, I have to report what happens in a game, whether Mayo wins by 10 or loses by 10, but Grosso is someone you don't want to disappoint, whether you're playing for him, coaching with him or writing about his teams.
The first year I covered Mayo — the 2006-07 season — the Spartans lost to Century 4-1 in the section semifinals, ending their season. After the game, I asked Grosso, "so, how are you feeling? Think you'll be back on the bench next winter?"
He laughed and said, "Well, when I decide to hang it up, after Joni and (Whitney), you'll be the first to know."
I never asked him again, and though he probably told a few more people than his wife and A.D. before he told me, he spent a lot of time one November afternoon answering questions about his career and telling stories.
That's the thing about Grosso that makes him so endearing. Not only does he listen to whoever is speaking to him, he always has a story, a joke, an anecdote to lighten the mood or make you feel like he can relate to you.
When my mother passed away a little more than a year ago, the first time I saw Grosso after that, before he let me ask him questions about the game I had covered, he stopped me in mid-sentence.
"How are you doing? I'm very sorry to hear about your mother," he said.
Sometimes in this job we get a bit robotic. We can laugh and joke with coaches or players, be serious when the situation calls for it, but most of the time, we go through our nuts-and-bolts interviews and go our different directions.
That's not the case with Lorne. He always has a question or two for me, too, and for whoever he's talking with, whether it's about my kids, or my job ... whatever.
Another of my favorite Grosso stories came probably the first or second year I was on the boys hockey beat.
Before Lorne does anything after a game, he always calls Joni. She stopped going to games a number of years ago. Anyway, this particular night, probably in 2007 or 2008, a game had just finished and I was waiting outside the locker room. "Hold on a second, I have to call home," Grosso told me. Then he turned to one of his assistant coaches. "Coach?" he said. "How do I dial my own number." He has since mastered his cell phone, I believe. :)
I could go on and on, but we need to get to today's games.
So, bottom line: If you can, get to Graham Arena by 12:45 today. Hopefully Grosso's last game at Graham is one he'll remember.
CENTURY at MAYO
1 p.m., Graham Arena I
Records: Century 7-10-0 Big Nine, 10-13-1 overall; Mayo 9-6-1, 13-10-1
Coaches: Century, Josh Klingfus (5th season, 63-59-10 overall); Mayo, Lorne Grosso (49th season, 706-445-29)
Last meeting: Mayo defeated Century 5-3 on Jan. 5 at the Rochester Rec Center. Max Billings had 2 goals and 1 assist for Mayo; Ben Haas had 2 assists for Century.
Last game: Century lost to Mankato East 3-2 in OT on Thursday; Mayo tied Faribault 5-5 on Thursday.
Team leaders: CENT -- So. F Jon Thorvilson 7-9--16; Jr. D John Schmitz 6-9--15; Jr. F Eric St. Marie 10-5--15; Jr. D Will Zmolek 6-8--14; So. G Cole Walter 8-9-1, 3.50, .886. MAYO -- Jr. F Anthony Oliveto 19-23--42; Sr. F Veikko Weckman 20-17--37; Sr. F Max Billings 16-10--26; Sr. D Nick Norby 7-16--23; So. G Liam Claton 12-6-0, 3.68, .866.
Notes: The presentation of the 2016 recipients of the Shannon O'Hara Foundation scholarships will take place on the ice after the second period of this game. ... Century has a slim one-game lead in the all-time series as the teams meet for the 53rd time today. ... Mayo has won seven of the past 10 games against Century. ... Century had a four-game winning streak snapped on Thursday against East. ... Mayo is winless in its last three games.
RED WING at JOHN MARSHALL
3 p.m., Rochester Rec Center
Records: Red Wing 9-6-0 Big Nine, 9-15-0 overall; JM 14-1-0, 18-6-0
Coaches: Red Wing, Bob Rajanen; JM, Jay Ness (5th season, 65-59-4 overall)
Last meeting: JM won 3-2 in OT at Red Wing on Feb. 14, 2015. Cory Checco scored the OT winner, with assists from Isaac Lamppa and Conner Lee.
Last game: Red Wing lost to Rochester Lourdes 5-4 on Thursday; JM lost at Mankato West 6-5 in OT on Thursday.
Team leaders: R.W. -- Jr. F Tyler DeFore 30-7--37; Sr. F Sam Hanson 10-22--32; Jr. D Seth Cushing 14-18--32; Sr. F Joe Renshaw 5-7--12; G Zachariah Harding 7-10-0, 4.01 GAA, .894, 1 SO. JM -- Sr. F Brady Dahl 22-26--48; Sr. F Isaac Lamppa 24-20--44; Sr. F Conner Lee 11-26--37; Sr. D Josh Frerks 7-29--36; Sr. G Brady Meyers 18-6-0, 1.74, .930, 4 SO.
Notes: This is a big one for JM. If it wins, it's the Big Nine Conference champion. If the Rockets lose, Northfield is the outright conference champion. ... This game features the Big Nine Conference's leading goal-scorer (DeFore, 30) against the conference's Nos. 3, 5 and 8 scorers -- JM's Brady Dahl, Isaac Lamppa and Conner Lee -- as well as the top-scoring defenseman in the conference (Frerks). ... It also features the Big Nine's top goalie, Meyers, who is tied for 7th in the state in wins (18), tied for 10th in the state in GAA (1.74) and tied for 5th in the state in save pct. (.930). He's also tied for 11th in shutouts (4).
• • • • •
• Austin (4-12-0 Big Nine, 7-13-1 overall) at Owatonna (11-5-0, 14-9-1) 1 p.m.: Austin has won two of its past three games and is coming off a big victory against its biggest rival, 4-1 at Albert Lea on Thursday. ... Owatonna has been one of the hottest teams in the Big Nine in the second half of the season and is locked in to a third-place finish in the standings. The Huskies have won eight of their past 10 games. ... Huskies senior F Noah Scheid is a player to watch. He has 26-21—47 this season and has 11 points in the past five games.