Gophers hockey notebook: Motzko has fond memories of Woog
In his earliest days as a head hockey coach, more than three decades ago, Bob Motzko would sit quietly inside the old Mariucci Arena and watch Doug Woog's Gopher hockey practices to learn drills and get tips on the game. On Monday Motzko recalled his friendship with Woog, who passed away Saturday at age 75.
MINNEAPOLIS — As a first-time hockey coach more than 30 years ago, Bob Motzko had drive and determination and a passion for the game. What he lacked most of all were drills to use for his team during practices.
Motzko was less than a year removed from playing college hockey when he was named the head coach of the North Iowa Huskies junior team of the United States Hockey League in early 1987. He needed to scout high school games in the Twin Cities for his next wave of players, and he needed some help with what to do on the ice in practice. He found a solution to get both.
“You don’t have any drills when you first start coaching. So we’d practice in the morning in Mason City (Iowa) and then I would drive up and watch Gopher hockey practices to get drills. Then I’d go to a high school game at night, then drive back to Mason City,” Motzko recalled on Monday.
After Motzko attended few practices, then-Gophers coach Doug Woog, with his skates still on, crawled up into the bleachers at the old Mariucci Arena and sat next to Motzko to ask who he was and what he needed. When Woog learned that Motzko was looking for drills, the Gophers coach was eager to help.
“After that we had countless meetings, all talking hockey,” Motzko said, reflecting on his relationship with Woog, who died Saturday, Dec. 14, at age 75. “But the real story is I bet there are countless other high school coaches, youth coaches and college coaches who will tell you the same story.”
Woog, who coached the Gophers to six Frozen Four appearances and eight conference titles in 14 seasons, was a mentor for Motzko from the latter’s earliest days of coaching hockey.
“There was a USA Hockey all-star event in East Lansing, Michigan, at Michigan State’s campus. All the coaches, when it’s all over you end up at a bar ... I was just a young coach, and I sat at the bar with Wooger,” Motzko said. “For the next two hours, you know the little (cocktail) napkins and he just wrote out drills. And as he’d write a drill then grab a new napkin, I’d put it in my pocket. I got back to my room that night and I had over 50 new drills.”
Motzko also remembered Woog’s infectious personality, and how he loved to interact with fans, offering a handshake, a smile and a hockey story to so many that he met.
“No one enjoyed being with the people more than Doug Woog, and talking hockey,” Motzko said. “It’s just a sad loss for all of us. But, boy, his legacy is going to be as deep as any person in the history of this school.”
Bad news from Motzko’s former employer
Before becoming the Gophers’ head coach in 2018, Motzko played college hockey at St. Cloud State, was a Huskies assistant coach and then was the head coach of their hockey program for 13 seasons. He said the news from last week that SCSU would drop its football and golf programs due to on-going budgetary struggles is part of an unfortunate trend seen across college sports.
“You don’t want to hear that anywhere, because people are hurt from it,” Motzko said. “Those are tough decisions that are happening all over the country right now. You really feel for the people involved that it affects.”