BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Who will Tom Serratore root for during Saturday’s Hockey Day Minnesota game between Bemidji and Greenway?
“Everybody asks me that,” the Bemidji State men’s hockey head coach said.
Serratore happens to be a Coleraine native and a 1982 graduate of Greenway High School.
“I’m happy for both communities,” Serratore said. “I mean, I live in Bemidji. Bemidji is the town I live in. Bemidji is the town I’m going to live in the rest of my life. My kids went to school here.”
Serratore has coached the Beavers since the 2001-02 season after taking over from longtime coach Bob Peters.
Prior to his coaching career, the veteran bench boss played two seasons at BSU from 1985-87 as a forward. The two-year letterwinner won a NCAA Division III national title in 1985-86 and served as captain the following season.
Now in his 18th season coaching his alma mater, Serratore has compiled a record of 292-281-81 and taken the Beavers to the Frozen Four.
“To me, I’m a Bemidji guy right now,” Serratore said. “But I went to Greenway. But it’s not like I want Bemidji to win or Greenway to win. I’m just excited for both of those communities to be part of Hockey Day.”
Growing up in Coleraine, outdoor hockey was a way of life for Serratore. With only one indoor rink in town, most players refined their skills outdoors.
“That’s all we did was play outdoors,” Serratore said. “I practiced outdoors every day, and then on the weekends we got a game or so indoors, and then our travel team would play on the weekend and then we’d practice, our travel teams, maybe twice a week inside.”
Serratore would pull double duty playing on the local town team and travel team.
“Right after school we would walk to the outdoor rink and we’d have Coleraine town team practice,” Serratore said. “... I remember days out there freezing. It’s amazing when you reflect back on those times. And you didn’t know anything different.”
Kids growing up playing hockey nowadays don’t typically have the chance to spend as much time playing outdoors. Hockey Day has become a way to offer young players the opportunity to experience the game the way their parents and grandparents did.
“From a historical standpoint, that’s the beauty of these Hockey Days,” Serratore said. “Because these kids, they don’t have the luxury of what we had. I don’t know if it’s a luxury or not. But they’ve got more indoor ice right now. And they just don’t have time to practice outdoors as much because they practice so much indoors. And it’s not their fault. That’s just the way the schedule is.”
Serratore -- whose Beavers will face Michigan Tech outdoors Friday night, Jan. 18 -- will have many friends in attendance this weekend, from both Bemidji and Coleraine.
But this event is about more than wins and losses, the coach said.
“Anything that you can do to create an experience for all these people, whether they’re players coaches or fans, I think that’s the unique experience and that’s the special experience,” Serratore said. “It’s not about who wins or loses. It’s about being a part of something special. And I’m excited to have the place that I graduated from and now the place that I call my home be part of Hockey Day.”