Posted by: Feldman
As I begin typing this, we're less than an hour away from the opening puck drop of the 2014 Kiwanis/Home Federal boys hockey Festival. It's one of the best times of the year for local hockey fans. Three straight days of hockey, close to 12 hours each day.
As I wrote in today's paper, it's tough to pick a favorite in either division this year.
Eau Claire Memorial, the No. 5-ranked team in Wisconsin, might seem like a favorite in the Blue Division. But, the Old Abes will have to go through Verona, the defending Wisconsin state champ; Rochester Lourdes, which ECM beat just 3-1 in the season opener last month; and Fargo South, whose only losses are to Minnesota Section 8AA power Moorhead and a one-goal setback to Grand Forks Red River, the top-ranked team in North Dakota.
As for the Gold Division (formerly the AA division), this seems like as good of a year as any for a Rochester team to win the championship. Rochester Mayo has the best record in the field (6-2-0), though Rochester John Marshall (4-6-0) enters the tournament on a two-game winning streak, with both victories against Big Nine Conference teams that had been playing well, Northfield and Rochester Century. As for Century (5-4-1), the Panthers are a talented group who have lost three times by one goal (their other loss was a two-goal set back to state-ranked Farmington). It won't be an easy path for any of those teams, though, with defending champ Northland Pines and a 4-2-0 New Richmond team also in the field. Dodge County has played well in its past two games, too.
Here are some links to more tournament preview info. that was in the P-B on Saturday:
* A list of the past Festival champions, and this year's Festival schedule
* A team-by-team preview of the Festival
* A profile story on Dodge County senior forward and team captain Colin Sherden, who suffered broken vertebrae and spine injuries during a football game nearly 16 months ago. After some tremendous surgeons at Mayo Clinic Hospital performed surgeries, Sherden was up doing homework within a week and back in the weight room within a month.
The story on Sherden and the bond he formed with Dodge County coach Eric Hofmann could've been twice as long as it ended up. I talked with both Sherden and Hofmann for about 8 minutes before we even got around to talking about his role on the hockey team and what type of player he is.
In light of that, here are the transcripts of the interviews with Sherden and Hofmann. Enjoy the Kiwanis Festival if you make it over to Graham.
Dodge County senior F Colin Sherden:
What's it like to be back on the ice, when you thought you might never skate again?
A year and a half ago I never thought this would be possible again. But I have been blessed with a good supporting cast around me, good family, good teammates, good coaches
Do you remember the play? (In a game against P-E-M)
It was a spread-wide, 11 follow; it was a low snap and I had my head down and got hit with a shoulder to the top of my head, pushed my head down
What was the feeling right away?
I remember getting back up to my feet and was going to call the next play, I remember thinking 'it's not that big of a deal.' Then the coaches saw I was stumbling all over the place, so they called a timeout and I walked off the field. I remember being really emotional, and I'm not sure why. Trainers came up to me immediately and did some concussion tests. At first they thought it was a neck strain. They said I had a weird gait and a slow heart rate, so they called an ambulance to the field and that's when I was taken to the E.R.
When you found out the diagnosis, what were the emotions like?
That was a scary time. I wasn't concerned with the injury itself. I wasn't as concerned right away with the injury, but just thought about not being able to play sports. I remember busting into tears ... my parents were there and were having a tough time with it, too, but it was great to have them there with me.
Being able to walk off the field, that was awesome and I tried to keep it in perspective of 'at least I'm alive and walking.' But that kind of wore off and the more I went to football games and hockey games I kept thinking 'OK, I really need this back,' so I started working out harder so I could get back.
In terms of your injury, you had a pretty rapid recovery?
I had a six-week limit for weight; I could hold 10 pounds and then add 10 pounds each week after that, so it was pretty quick.
Now I look back at it as probably the best thing to ever happen to me. Physically, it wasn't, but it was just what you can learn about life when you go through something like that and who you have around you, who's in your corner.
The thing I missed most was just being with the team. Playing sports is awesome, but just being around the guys is what I missed most.
What did it mean to have coach and friends come be with you in the hospital?
It meant a lot. When coach came we talked for an hour, not about hockey, but just about every-day stuff. My mom was there; she said that was one of the coolest things she's seen, just like two friends sitting and talking.
What does it mean now to have him as a coach and being back on the ice playing for him?
I've really learned ... I'm thinking about being a coach when I get older and I'm really going to try to follow the way he coaches. Just the way he cares for his players is pretty unbelievable. We've always had a good relationship, but since that injury, it's taken off. It's a friendship, but it's definitely still a coach-player relationship, too.
What does it mean to you to be a captain and have a letter on your sweater?
It means a lot, it really does. You're trying your best to get your team name out there and make sure the guys are doing what they're supposed to be doing. It really makes you accountable and responsible.
(Being a captain, it's everything...) from housekeeping things to just being the best person and teammate you can possibly be. You want to show the younger guys and even the players in the youth program what it means to be a good man and a good teammate.
What kind of coaching do you want to go into? What do you hope to take from coach Hofmann and other coaches?
Hockey and football. ... Just communication, being there for your players. (Hofmann) is all business, but at the same time, you know he's a friend to you and you can talk to him about anything. For some players and some kids, they might not have a father figure in their lives, and that's what coach is.
Are you a two-sport athlete or something in the spring, too?
Two sports, football and hockey.
How was football season this fall, especially at the start?
It was a fun year, just the chance to play was great. ... I got 10 plays as a QB last year before I got hurt, and our first scrimmage this fall was against (P-E-M). I think I got hit on the first play and that's all it took, I was back into it. After that, it was just football again. And it helped that I had played summer hockey and (had physical contact).
How about this hockey season, the way you've seen the team and program grow?
This is the year I've had the most fun. This team is really close. We all hang out together and have fun. There aren't a lot of cliques, which would be easy to have happen when you have eight different schools in one program. Our effort -- coach has talked all year about working hard and having a good attitude. That's really starting to catch on.
* * *
Dodge County coach Eric Hofmann
Colin, as a person, going through what he's been through. Did you know he had that kind of character?
I knew he had leadership qualities and that type of character prior to his injury, but the way he bounced out of it, it just goes to show how deep-rooted his character is. He was never depressed, never down, he was always trying to find the good in it and he was able to make a really good comeback.
Even when he was injured last year, he did everything he could to be a part of the team, even if it was just to put a jersey on and be around the team. He was at practices, meetings, team bonding, he started developing into a captain and the man he's turning out to be. It was impressive to see.
What do you remember about your hospital visits?
I remember taking the elevator ride up, I wasn't sure what I was going to say or how it was going to go. If he'd cry or be happy or mad, but when I got in there, his mom and dad were there, and his older brothers. As soon as I walked in he said "Hi, coach," just like normal. And here's this kid with a big mark running along his neck, you know he's been through hell. He was in good spirits. We didn't talk about sports, just talked about life. He mentioned to me once or twice how upsetting it was for him, that he couldn't play, but there was no negativity. It was a good, positive chat.
How did you hear about it?
Living in a small town, I had a flurry of text messages that night. We're a co-op of several different schools, so there were players from Byron, K-M and other places that sent me messages saying something had happened to Colin. The next day is when I really found out how severe it was. I got four or five phone calls and at that time, I reached out to Colin's mom and dad about going to see him.
How scary was it for you as a coach to know a player was going through that?
Anytime one of your players or anyone in your program goes through something like that, the first thing you think about isn't hockey, it's 'how is he going to be for the rest of his life?' It was a very scary time.
Considering his injuries, what does it say about him just to want to come back and play again?
It speaks volume of the kind of kid he is now and the man he's becoming. It's incredible, there are so many people who would just roll over and say 'this is it,' maybe be confined to a wheelchair or walking but not playing, but with Colin, there was never any negativity. With him it was always just do whatever he could do, within limits and never pushing it, but he did all his rehab and had good spirits.
Most phenomenal about the whole thing is his first scrimmage in football this fall was against the team that he got hurt against. To overcome that mental barrier, that's incredible and inspiring.
Do you see some of that with his teammates, too, being impressed and inspired by him?
First and foremost, they're friends and they're very happy that he's OK and that he's back playing. He's one of the most respected, if not the most, in that (locker) room, by the players and the coaches, too, just because we all know what he went through. He never plays the 'poor me' card and rarely ever brings it up.
The team had a meeting last week and he brought up and said 'we have to give full effort and work hard, have fun and have good attitudes, because you never know when it might be your last time or it could be taken from you.'
He talked about becoming a coach. What are the qualities he possesses that will make him a good coach and leader?
He's inspiring and is a natural motivator. He has that ability to motivate the guys around him, especially now with his own experiences already as an 18-year-old. He has very good leadership qualities that are raw and that he continually works on and develops. On top of that, his priorities are straight when it comes to life, family, relationships, he really has his head on straight.
It says a lot about Colin that we've talked for 8 minutes and haven't talked about him as a player. What type of player is he on the ice; what does he bring that impresses you?
He brings those leadership qualities, intensity, energy, always gives 100 percent effort. He's been a defenseman for most of his life. We recently moved him up to forward and he's excelling at that, too. He's versatile and can adapt to different situations without ever questioning the coaches or being upset. He's had a good attitude and worked hard at becoming a good forward.
Why the move from defense to forward?
We wanted to move a younger forward back to defense, to help him develop better as he can see the plays unfold in front of him. So we thought Colin, with his size, would help add some depth to our forward group. So far it's worked out really well.
He's a playmaker and grinder. We need a guy with good size to get in there and establish a forecheck, protect his center and his other wing, and he does a fantastic job of it. He works hard and has a good frame, he's a good guy to be down deep in the offensive zone.
Anything else to add about Colin?
Whatever Colin decides to do in life, in general, whether it's coaching or teaching or whatever, I'm very confident he'll be successful.