by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
By taking over as the new Maple Grove High boys’ hockey coach, Tom Starkey is trying to continue the winning tradition he helped establish.
Starkey, a Maple Grove alumnus and experienced hockey coach, was named the new head hockey coach for the Crimson last week.
“I am very excited to get started with the summer program and to meet the players,” said Starkey.
Starkey was a four-year varsity player for the Crimson, starting with the school’s inaugural season in 1996. He was one of the most prolific scorers in school history and had a big 1997-98 season during which he recorded four hat tricks and scored four goals in a game, both school records that are still standing. He was the team captain in his senior season in 2000 and finished as Maple Grove’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 62 goals and 59 assists.
Playing under coach Gary Stefano, Starkey and standouts such as Dave Iannazzo, Brent Balvin and Erik Wendell propelled the young Maple Grove program to immediate success. After a 10-12-2 first season, the Crimson had winning records in the next three years and reached the section championship games in Starkey’s sophomore and junior seasons.
“I have been associated with the program since the inaugural year,” Starkey said. “We had some good years and a few of us were high-point scorers. The program has some recent success as well. I look forward to continuing that tradition.”
After high school, Starkey continued his hockey career with the U.S. Air Force Academy, a Division 1 school. He graduated from the academy with a degree in business management and became a 2nd Lieutenant, US Air Force Officer. More recently, Starkey served as the junior varsity and varsity assistant coach at Wayzata.
Starkey said he always had an interest in coaching at his alma mater but it’s not until this season that the position opened up when Stefano’s contract was not renewed by the school district. Stefano was Maple Grove’s only hockey head coach for 16 years but during the past season an off-campus incident rocked the school and community and resulted in the suspension of 13 varsity players and a one-day suspension for Stefano.
Asked how he plan to leave that messy incident behind and move forward, Starkey said: “All I am focusing on is what we will do to go forward. We have policies and rules in place. I can tell you that the kids will know exactly what are expected of them. If they don’t (meet those expectations) they won’t be around.”
Starkey has already started his new coaching job and is working on spring and summer programs. He also plans to host a meeting with all his players this week.
Contact Bob San at [email protected]