School district decides not to bring back veteran hockey coach
by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
The Osseo Area School District last week announced that Gary Stefano will not return as the Maple Grove High School boys’ hockey coach next season.
District spokesperson Barb Olson released a statement that reads: “The district can confirm that Mr. Stefano will not return as head hockey coach next year. Maple Grove Senior High administrators are looking forward to hearing stakeholder perspectives as the school begins the process of hiring a new head hockey coach.”
Stefano has been the Crimson head coach since the school opened 17 years ago. His team was engulfed in controversy since Jan. 14 when 13 varsity players were suspended for an undisclosed off-campus incident that happened last December. Stefano was suspended while the district conducted an investigation but was reinstated after one day.
No reasons were given for his termination. Asked if the school district could provide reasons for its decision, Olson said, “Sorry, but I can’t provide further information regarding the circumstances of the change in leadership.”
But Stefano stressed that he was let go by the school district and that no reasons were ever given for that decision.
“Any high school coach’s contract is year to year and the school has the right to non-renewal,” Stefano said. “I did not resign and I did not retire. The school district decided they want to go in another direction. There have never been any reasons I’ve been told for what I did wrong.”
Stefano received the letter informing him that he would not be brought back on Feb. 19 as his team was entering section tournament play. He did not know why the school district chose to send him the letter while his team was still playing. Stefano decided to keep it quiet until the season was over. Maple Grove beat Irondale on Feb. 23 and lost to Centennial on Feb. 27 in the section semifinal.
“I didn’t want to tell the kids because you don’t know how they would react,” Stefano said. “I wanted to wait until the season is over. I wanted to be the one to tell them, not to have them hear it from some where else. After the game Wednesday, I announced to the team that my contract was not renewed.”
Thus ended a 17-year career for Stefano at Maple Grove. Stefano was sad that his tenure ended in such manner, but he is leaving with lots of positive memories.
“I had 17 great years at Maple Grove,” Stefano said. “We did a lot of positive things and we accomplished a lot of things. We have a great program and I have great student athletes and parents to work with. I’ve got a couple more years from retirement and I wasn’t ready to quit hockey. Too bad it has to end like this, but that’s life and you have to move on. But in 17 seasons, the great memories outweigh anything else.”
Stefano said he has never taken a winter off in 32 years after he graduated from college so he will enjoy sometime off. But don’t be surprised if he shows up behind the bench of a high school team in the future.
“Some people have already contacted me (about coaching),” Stefano said. “At this point I am just sitting back. My options are open.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]