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MHCA Class of 2018

Mark Loahr - Totino Grace
Bruce Plante - Hermantown
Tony Sarsland - Elk River
Randy Schmitz - Lakeville North
Gary Stefano - Cooper/Osseo-Maple Grove

Mark Loahr

Totino Grace claimed his 500th career victory this past season to become the 12th coach in state history to reach that milestone. Such a milestone is a tribute to his longevity and success as the head coach at his alma mater, from where he graduated in 1970 when it was still Grace High School. He would earn his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota in 1976 while serving as an assistant coach at Grace. The following year he began teaching at Epiphany grade school and, in 1978, began his teaching tenure at Grace, where he served as a social studies teacher and drivers education instructor during his 36 years at the school. During his years at Totino-Grace, he also coached boys’ and girls’ golf, softball and bowling as well as coaching youth hockey and football in both St. Anthony and Roseville for 20 years. Mark provided unshakable stability in the Totino-Grace hockey program for over 30 years. He showed great dedication to his school, program, students, and to the game of high school hockey. Loahr’s hockey tenure at Totino-Grace has included five state tournament appearances (1993,1995,2002, 2005 & 2014), one state championship (2002), a pair of runner-up finishes (1995,2005) & consolation champions (2014). Additionally, his Eagles teams won 10 section academic team titles. Mark has been an active and long-time member of the MHCA Board of Directors

Bruce Plante

Hermantown’s Bruce Plante.  Bruce Plante became a fixture at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center and on statewide television each March during Hermantown’s unprecedented run of eight straight championship games from 2010-2017, winning it all in 2016 & 2017 under Plantes’ tutelage.  A Cloquet native who played goalie for the Lumberjacks and for legendary coaches Don Bourdeau and Bill Kennedy, Plante also spent two seasons playing in college for UW-Superior.  He got his start as a coach in 1969 leading Cloquet’s Pee Wee B team.  In 14 seasons in the Cloquet youth system, Plante worked his way up to the Pee Wee A and then Bantam A level before taking the head coaching position at Hermantown in 1983-84.  Plante retired in 2017 after guiding the Hawks to their second Class A state championship in as many years.  In 28 seasons, he won 547 games and led Hermantown to 13 state tournaments, three of which — 2007, 2016, 2017 — ended with titles.  He got his start at Hermantown in 1983, coaching through 1989 before leaving to scout for the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars. Plante came back to the Hawks' bench in 1995.  He was selected the state's coach of the year in Class 1A in a vote of his fellow coaches five times.  No other coach, in either class, has received the honor more than twice.  As good as he is as a coach, he's even a better person, teacher and friend.

Tony Sarsland

With over 40 years of coaching experience, Tony Sarsland racked up 588 wins that places him fifth on the all-time Minnesota High School Hockey Coaches list.  His coaching journey started at Hallock, MN in 1970 and his career took him to five different programs until 2016.  He retired from coaching in 2012 at Elk River and joined Brainerd as an assistant coach in 2016.  Sarsland was inspired by teacher and MHCA Hall of Famer Whitey Aus while attending junior high at Capitol View.  Raised in foster homes since the age of 9, Aus took Sarsland under his wing, and even into his home during his formative years.  Sarsland said that Aus “was the single most important person to lead me in the right direction”.  As a young coach, Sarsland took Aus’ guidance and put it to good use.  Sarsland took the head coaching job in Hallock where he coached from 1970-1972.  He then accepted the assistant coaching position at Columbia Heights where he held that position from 1972-1978.  A head coaching position was open in Beloit, WI where Sarsland took over the reigns from 1978-1985.  He led his team to their first ever Wisconsin state tournament in 1981 where his team finished second while having a record under .500.  From 1985-2012, Sarsland was the head coach at Elk River High School where he picked up the majority of his wins behind the bench.  He posted a career record of 588-189-26.  While at Elk River, he captured 11 conference championships, led his team to 6 state tournament appearances – including Elk River’s first ever in 1993 - and won the state title in 2001.  His son was a member of the 1993 team which was a big moment for the Sarslands to share.  Sarsland was dedicated to impact player’s lives when experiencing adversity.  He pointed to a player he had that was “difficult” both in school and in court and is now a probation officer.  Pointing to that and other off-ice successes, impacting people, is what Sarsland views as the real highlights of his coaching career.  It all came down to the formative years and Aus for Sarsland.  “By experiencing love, care, concern and discipline from Whitey, I hoped to accomplish this in the lives of my players, particularly those in need of direction,” Sarsland said.  “I hoped by becoming a coach I would be able to share my background, being raised in a troubled family and put into foster care, to impact my players the way I was by my coaches and particularly by Whitey.”  Sarsland is fifth on the all-time wins list and now a Hall of Famer.

Randy Schmitz

Randy Schmitz was born and raised in Farmington, MN.  His father, Louis Schmitz (MAHA President Award/Don Clark Award), is credited with starting the hockey program in Farmington whom the rink is now named after (Schmitz-Maki Arena).  As a 1972 graduate, Randy amassed an impressive athletic career while playing football, hockey and baseball and was coached by Al Maki (Cliff Thompson Award/MHCA Hall of Fame).  Randy’s athletic accomplishments have been celebrated in his hometown as he is a member of the Farmington High School Athletic Hall of Fame.  Randy then attended Mankato State University where he earned a BS in Physical Education and graduated in 1976.  With this degree he found his way to the Lakeville Public Schools where he taught elementary physical education for 34 years.  With his kind heart and caring attitude, he helped set the path for many young children towards a healthy lifestyle.  Randy’s impressive 38-year coaching career started in 1977 where he served as the Assistant Lakeville Boys Hockey Coach for 11 years.  In 1988 he took the reins as the Head Coach and saw the program through its growth as Lakeville proper, to the split of what we now know as Lakeville North.

While at Lakeville North he earned 6 State Tournament appearances since 2002 including a Consolation Championship in 2010.  He was awarded the Section Coach of the Year 5 times from his peers and served as a Great 8 GM for his section as well as a Minnesota High Performance coach.  Randy was also an integral member of the committee that helped build Ames Arena in Lakeville.  Upon retiring as Head Coach in 2011, Randy couldn’t stay away from the game long and took on the role as Assistant Coach in the Rosemount, South St. Paul and Lakeville South programs for another 4 years.  Randy’s passion has always been about helping as many young kids as possible in Lakeville succeed and reach their highest potential. Because of this attitude, he also served as the Head Softball Coach in Lakeville for 30 years earning 6 Section Coach of the year selections, 5 State Tournament appearances (including 2 runner ups).  Randy continues to coach softball as an Assistant, but has made the move back to his home town of Farmington where he will be heading into his 7th season in that role – he earned a State Championship in 2017.  Randy is thankful for everything the MHCA has brought him – especially the things away from the rink.  The brotherhood, comradery, the learning – he loved that we could be fierce competitors as coaches on the rink, but then be best of friends and support each other off the rink.

Gary Stefano

Gary Stefano began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Cooper High School in 1981.  It would prove as the launching pad for a 32-year career where he compiled a 249-54-26 record over 22 seasons as head coach at two schools.  Known as a motivator that helped student athletes become better hockey players on the rink and better people off the rink, Stefano blended discipline and respect of the sport no matter the outcome.  After spending five seasons at Cooper from 1981-1986, Stefano moved on to serve as assistant at Osseo High School from 1986-1991.   He took his first head coaching job at Park Center High School in 1991 where he coached for five seasons from 1991-1996.  Stefano was named Section Coach of the Year in 1993 and led his team to the State Tournament that season.  Stefano was hired to coach at Maple Grove High School in 1996 and went on to lead the team for 17 seasons until the 2013.  He guided his team to the school’s first ever State Tournament appearance in 2012.  Stefano earned a number of honors while coaching at Maple Grove including being named Section Coach of the Year four times (2004, 2007, 2010, 2012).  His Maple Grove team captured two Northwest Suburban Conference Championships in back-to-back years, 2011 and 2012.  Relationship building with players and parents have been among the top memories in Stefano’s career.  He also was a part of a significant fundraising effort at Maple Grove to help build the new addition to the team locker rooms.  There are a number of memories that will last forever including coaching his first game at Park Center along with the first State Tournament appearance with 1993.  His team Park Center team won a classic 5-4 overtime game at the Met Center against Osseo to earn the bid to St. Paul.  Stefano enjoyed the feeling after a victory and disappointment after a difficult loss with his teams, working through the emotional and psychological site of coaching with his teams as a group.   A number of people have been influential in Stefano’s coaching career led by his parents who were a big influence in helping him pursue his career in education and coaching.  Ken Staples opened the door of Stefano in the 1981-82 season as the Cooper High School coach who asked Stefano to join his staff as an assistant.  Known to surround himself with a strong supporting cast, Stefano also points to his assistant coaches throughout his career as to being key to his success.   The support of his family, most importantly his wife Julie were key to his success. “Last but not least, my wife of 33+ years, Julie was also a key person and strong supporter of me lasting this long behind the bench,” Stefano said.