Jim Scanlan-The Making of a Champion-Integrity Matters
Jim Scanlan leads the East Grand Forks Green Wave programs to success, leading through integrity (photo Pioneer Press: John Autey)
East Grand Fork’s head girls coach Jim Scanlan had a plan. The humble coach with his calm demeanor did not want this story to be about him. But when you have given sixteen years of your life to building a hockey program that has the girls team as the top seed in the Minnesota high school state tournament and the boys team starting play as the number one ranked team in the state Class A tournament heading into sectional play, the story is about the man whose plan not only worked, but flourished.
Scanlan in his modesty kept pointing the interview away from him and onto others saying “we are a product of our environment. I have been very fortunate to have had some great coaches all the way from my youth days in Cottage Grove Minnesota to my days coaching for one season at Northern Michigan, then 3 years at Western Michigan, and for 7 years at the University of North Dakota”.
After his college coaching stint, Scanlan then stayed in East Grand Forks, where he coached the boys from 1996 – 2007 and during the 10 years, his team qualified for 4 tournament appearances. He lost a heart breaker in the championship game to a Troy Riddle led Benilde St. Margaret’s team by a 3-2 margin. He has coached the girls since 2008, and with his team coming down this year on the girls side, Scanlan is one of only a few coaches to have ever coached teams into the Minnesota State High School tournament for both the boys and the girls.
In speaking of his mentors, the list is very impressive, as they include some of the most decorated coaches in college history. The names he then rattled off included four NCAA coach of the years, with four of these coaches also winning the NCAA National tournament.
As an assistant coach at the University of North Dakota, Scanlan coached for Dean Blais and Gino Gasparini. Both Blais and Gasparini were NCAA coach of the year recipients along with both having won NCAA titles. Add to that the assistants at UND that included Scott Sandelin, who recently led UMD to an NCAA title in 2011, and Rick Comley who won the NCAA tourney and was chosen as coach of the year and you have some of the games best hockey minds forming the plan Scanlan would bring to East Grand Forks.
When Cary Eades was asked to describe Jim Scanlan in one word, Cary quickly responded, “Integrity”. Eades knows Scanlan from way back, as the Souix Falls United States Hockey League Head Coach spoke of his days coaching with Jim at the University of North Dakota with Gino Gasparini, and then Blais. Working side by side, Eades commented that ” Scanlan has a rare talent as he motivates through integrity”. Eades, who has a daughter Erica on the Green Wave team, went on to say that “Jim’s integrity plays a big role in his team’s success, whether it’s the boys or the girls, he leads by example with his integrity, and holds his players accountable to the same level and they respond very positively”. Eades also noted that one shouldn’t be fooled by Scanlan’s calm demeanor “Jim is a fierce competitor, and under that calm focused demeanor, is a burning passion to win”.
Prior to arriving at East Grand Forks, the program had decent players, but could never get it totally together. Scanlan brought in a disciplined approach that was about accountability. His plan was to take all that he had learned, and build a program whose basis would be to compete at a very high level, with the goal of winning championships. Starting with the boys, Scanlan began to implement his plan, first coaching the boys team for ten years and nearly winning it all, and now with the girls program. Under Scanlan, both teams are now flourishing as hockey has prospered in East Grand Forks.
Jayson Mack, whose daughters Haley and Alexa Mack have flourished with this years girls team, said Scanlan has a very rare gift. Mack knows about winning hockey, who as a player scored the game winning goal giving Bemidji State a national title. Mack noted “Jim not only has the respect of his players, but the player like him, rarely do you see the two going together. In coaching you typically see one, but rarely both, as it is hard for a coach to earn the respect and at the same time, being liked by his players”. Mack would know of this, as he spent many years coaching with Scanlan, including caoching the boys team during their 4 trips to the state tournament in a 7 year period run.
When asked to compare the difference between coaching boys and girls, Scanlan said “It is not what you would think, as it is very similar, as these girls are just as competitive, and I look at it as these are not girls, but are hockey players, who just want to learn the game”.
Scanlan’s career in hockey spans nearly 5 decades. As a youngster growing up in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. Scanlan recalled a cherished child hood with great friends and a very close knit family. Being the 5th child out of 11 born to Rosemary and Jerry Scanlan, the family was very close knit, with a strong family bond built on love and trust. Scanlan, who now serves the East Grand Forks School District as it’s Athletic Director, commented “We are a product of our environment. I have been blessed with having great role models, starting at home and then on the ice”.
The story would not be complete if we didn’t go back to the root. A great addition to the hockey community in Cottage Grove was the hiring of Marv Jorde as a teacher and coach at Park Senior High. Jorde, a former USA National hockey player, would coach the Park High School team for seventeen seasons, and inspired many to play the game at a very high level. Jorde’s team were very well coached, having played his youth days in Thief River Falls where he led his high school team to the state tournament, before heading to the University of Minnesota where he was coached by the legendary John Mariucci.
THE BIRTH OF A PROGRAM
Jorde brought all of this knowledge and his love and passion for the game to Cottage Grove. In 1968 Jorde, Rod Rankin and Pete Freeman approached the Cottage Grove Athletic Association to create a hockey program. With the backing of Harold Kostka helping to fund the Bantam program, and the ice time for the traveling Pee Wee’s and Bantam league games at Wakota Arena paid by Pioneer Press owner Bob Ridder, which helped keep the costs down, the program started with over 300 kids signing up with most games played outdoors. The club had three traveling teams, with Freeman coaching the Bantams, Rod Rankin coaching the Pee Wees and John Mausolf coaching the traveling squirt program.
According to Jorde, one of the reasons for his success was Mausolf, “John’s job with the district was being responsible for the grounds and outdoor ice in the winter, and we always had the best ice, as John put his heart and soul into his duties. The grounds for the other sports were always in great shape, and having also coached the baseball team, we had one of the best fields in the cities as well. It made practices much easier, and showed with winning results for both the hockey and baseball programs”.
With the initial go ahead, Mausolf, along with other traveling coaches Pete Freeman, Rod Rankin, had much support. Hal Tiffany who was involved in the cities Parks and recreation committee along with being Vice President of Cottage Groves Athletic Association, was in charge of the hockey program and served as the director for ten years. Tiffany said of his years of service ” It was never a big deal, it was just something that somebody had to do”. Others instrumental in the program start up included Gerry Goulet who ran the equipment shed, and assistant coaches Joe Torrito, Dick Tinucci, Dick Burke along with Gary Schultz, Shin Koyama, Marty Appel, Myron and Diane Bailey. Many others also helped as the program was off and running growing to 700 kids in the late 70’s.
JIM SCANLAN IS INTRODUCED TO HOCKEY
With the birth of Cottage Grove hockey, Scanlan was first introduced to the game by the John Mausolf family, including sons Craig and Gary. John had been a multiple sport star for St. Paul Park in the 50’s and settled in Cottage Grove. He married into a hockey crazed South St. Paul family when he met Judy Palodichuk, and with the new High School and Orrin Thompson housing built in the mid 60’s, the couple settled in Cottage Grove, and began to raise a family. Mausolf, who worked for School District 833 leading the grounds crew, worked tirelessly to build up a youth programs in hockey and baseball.
Mausolf started out and coached the Squirt A team coaching the traveling team that included his sons, Gary and Craig, along with Scanlan, Mike Jorde and Scott Tiffany. Marv noted that it was because of John’s way with kids, who liked and respected him as a coach, the team excelled. Marv noted “John had a way of motivating and working with kids. He expected the kids to work hard and play as a team. His love for the game, and for those who played it, was evident to all”. Mausolf coached this group through the Bantam level and then coached the Pee Wee Traveling team through the early 90’s, with his team capturing the 199o state tourney title.
According to Gary Mausolf, who played on most of the teams that Jim played on in the 60’s and 70’s, recalls his early days with the Cottage Grove team. Gary said ” Because of the large family, my dad John would get Jim his equipment and also arrange for Jim to pay for his hockey needs by working in several small clean up jobs around the Cottage Grove /Newport area. I recalled being the guy who seemed to always be carrying Jim’s equipment, as it was usually kept at our house and I had to load it in before we picked up Jim”. Jim’s mother, Rose Scanlan, also noted this “With eleven kids and one car, with Jim’s dad needing that for work, John Mausolf was a huge support for Jim, as we just could not have driven him as much as needed. John was also an awesome neighbor, really pitching in when needed”.
Scanlan was a very talented hockey player before he ever became a coach. His passion for the game and focus and determination for winnnng was most evident before he put on the pads to defend the nets for his team mates. In high school for Park, his sister Patty recalled “the afternoon of a game, Jim would get alone in our house, and with his hoodie over his head in a dimly lit room, he would focus by rocking in a chair thinking and preparing for the game for over an hour”. Thought to be odd behavior in the 70’s, this type of meditation is commonly used to prepare athletes now for many types of competition, focusing on performance prior to competition.
In another area that Scanlan and the neighborhood boys were ahead of their time was the use of what is now known as small area games. Scanlan attributes some of his success with his quick glove as a goaltender with his time spent in the Tiffany basement in what was known as the Basement Hockey League (BHL), “Not only was our team chemistry developing by the interaction, but the 3 on 3 hockey played in an area that was 30 feet by 40 feet with a makeshift net and a rolled up sock that was taped up, made for some quality practice time that helped create quick hands and quick minds” said Scott Tiffany, who played on teams with Scanlan from the time he was 8 until they graduated from Park High School. The two parted ways, with Scanlan heading to Bemidji State and Tiffany going off to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. Tiffany is currently best known as the Founder and President of MinnesotaHockeyMagazine.com.
FROM COTTAGE GROVE TO BEING A BEMIDJI STATE ALL AMERICAN
With the values of hard work, accountability to others, and perseverance, the young men would take this into their adult life. Michael Jorde M.D. who is an Associate Clinical Professor of Family Practice at the University of California-Davis and President of Redding Primary Care Corporation in Redding California noted “From squirts to High School hockey, Jim Scanlan, Scott Tiffany and I, along with our team mates, were raised in an environment that contributed significantly to ours and Jim’s success. Unending parental support instilled a belief that we could became whatever we dreamed of if we worked hard and maintained a positive attitude. We were rink rats, who brought our sleeping bags to the Park High outdoor rink to skate and sleep overnight in the warming house. And always, the endless coaching hours and altruistic efforts of individuals like John Mausolf, Dewey Selander, Mike Lysne, and Skip Peltier which allowed Jim to develop into a talented hockey player and coach”.
Growing up in the program, with great instruction and playing high level competition, the program developed along with it’s players. The team consistently won more games than they lost, as Scanlan provided the back bone of the team with his strong net play. Scanlan had a stellar Park High career, and after finishing his senior season with a 15-8 record after losing in the semi finals of the sections against a Scott Lynch and his 60 goal season and the North Saint Paul Polar team, he was recruited by the legendary Bob Peters to play hockey at Bemidji State.
With the support of an even stronger cast, Scanlan soon took his game to an even higher level, with the Beavers capturing the NCAA titles in 1979 and again in 1980. Scanlan then finished up his college career on a personal high note, by twice becoming an All American in 1981 and in 1982, finishing his career with 62 wins and an astounding winning percentage of .765 and after a tryout with the Buffalo Sabres, it was now time for Scanlan to take his next step and enter into the coaching profession.
COACHING FOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Scanlan noted that this season was set up by their last game from a year ago ” Having lost in the sectional final last year to Warroad, the team came into the season hungry, with losing just one player and knowing how close they were to their goal of playing for the state title in St. Paul”. Scanlan was very impressed early on, with the girls dedication and desire, as his team started out fast “The first practice of the year in late October was unbelievable. The girls came in and practiced as if in mid season form, with the chemistry showing, clicking on all cylinders”.
The team has not let off at all, having to go through Warroad and then number one ranked in the state Thief River Falls to get to the state tournament. East Grand Forks team entered the state tournament having lost only twice, with both losses to the previously number one ranked Class A Thief River Falls team. These losses were avenged, as the Green Wave defeated the Prowlers in double overtime for the section title.
Scanlan, whose first time entrant team won it’s first two games in the state tournament behind the strong performance of the Mack sisters, has now brought both the girls and boys team from East Grand Forks to it’s highest height and now has had both playing for state titles.
Although his team could not hold off the Blake Bears with Blake defending their state title by a 3-2 score, Scanlan now has laid the ground work for the girls program. After the loss, Scanlan addressed his team by telling them they are champions and will forever be champions “This is a championship team and championship teams walk forever, hold your heads high, you did everything you could to win it, and that is how we play the game”. It will be interesting to follow in the years to come as Scanlan now pursuits his desire to win a state title coaching hockey players behind the girls bench.