Greenway alum and Coleraine native Frank Serratore knows what The Tourney means to the State of Hockey. The Air Force men’s hockey coach for over two decades shared his thoughts on state tournament time, community pride, player development and much more.
Minnesota Hockey: What are some of your fond memories of the state tournament?
Frank Serratore: The state tournament was the ultimate event. Everything culminated with the state tournament. When the state tournament ended, that’s when baseball, tennis, track, that’s when spring sports season started. It was center stage. I don’t know how else you can say it. The towns would empty. If you didn’t make the state tournament, you were going. We went down and stayed at the (Curtis Hotel). You went down there with your group of classmates and not everybody was lucky enough to be able to get tickets.
It was something that everybody looked forward to every year. Businesses shut down. Every little town, they all had the hotels that they gathered at and stayed at. It was the ultimate hockey event of the season, there’s no question about that.
Minnesota Hockey: How neat is that part of the tournament where all the local communities get behind their teams?
Frank Serratore: Even in our little town of Coleraine, we played in front of sellout crowds. We had a lot of people, and mostly miners that were working shift work, we had them watching our practices every day depending on what shift they were on. The pep bands and the cheerleaders, it was quite an environment. Even in college I rarely saw an environment that matched what we had up on the Iron Range in high school hockey.
It brought communities together. When we were playing Grand Rapids or when we were playing Hibbing, it was unbelievable, everything that led up to that because the people that lived in those communities worked in the mines or worked in Blandin or worked somewhere where they had coworkers from Grand Rapids or Hibbing. It was massive. The community pride then, when you talk to people that aren’t from Minnesota and you tell them about that, it’s hard for them to comprehend it. It was quite a phenomenon.
Minnesota Hockey: Two years ago it worked out with your schedule to come back to Minnesota to see Greenway play in the state tournament. What was that experience like for you?
Frank Serratore: To me, it was fantastic for our community because it hadn’t happened in a long time. The tie-in for me, it was huge for my generation of people, the people from the 50s through the 80s, those grads that remember the old days and what it was like going down to the state tournament, what high school hockey was in our day and how big of a thing and how big of a community event it was and how big the state tournament was. It was somewhat a walk back through memory lane. Me going to that tournament was fun because I saw people I hadn’t seen in 30 or 40 years.
Minnesota Hockey: What should youth hockey be all about when it comes down to it?
Frank Serratore: First of all, it should be about having fun. Hockey, it’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun. So it should be about fun. It should have a social aspect and a developmental aspect, I think.
Minnesota Hockey: What advice would you give to parents of youth hockey players?
Frank Serratore: Don’t get over-involved. Let the kids play. Let them have fun. Let mother nature take its course.
Minnesota Hockey: What about hockey players who might be late bloomers and the overall pace of development today?
Frank Serratore: One of the things is the specialization aspect that’s in right now. The specialization aspect, it definitely accelerates the development of hockey players, but I think that there’s lessons that you learn playing other sports that benefit you over the long run. My thing with youth parents would be, if you’re really interested in providing your child with the best opportunity to have their best career in hockey to maximize their potential, what race do they want to win? Do they want to win the race to have the best 14-year-old or 15-year-old, or do they want to win the race to have the best 20- or-21-year-old by letting mother nature take its course?
The specialization is here in a lot of different sports and it’s probably here to stay. I’m not a big fan of that. I played football. I played hockey. I played baseball. I learned something from all those sports that were a benefit to me. I know that I wasn’t playing my best hockey as a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old. I wasn’t playing my best hockey until I was 21, 22 years old.
Minnesota Hockey: How can we help kids reach their potential?
Frank Serratore: I guess to me, if you’re talking to parents, get them involved in the association and get them playing, and then let mother nature take its course. First of all, if your child is having fun playing hockey, if they’re having a great social experience playing hockey, they’re going to want to go to the rink. And if they want to go to the rink, they’re enjoying playing the game and they have a passion for it, you take care of the little things and the big things are eventually going to take care of themselves, the quality of player that they eventually develop into.
The bottom line is, for somebody to be able to maximize their potential in anything, whatever endeavor it is, they have to enjoy it and they have to have a passion. They have to want to do it. I think some parents push it so hard that they suck the fun out of it. That’s what I would tell people to be leery of. Just leave it alone, let nature take its course, and provide your child with the opportunity. Trust the coaches and the association that they’re doing the right things in regard to practice plans and development and that type of thing. If they’re having fun on the ice and they’re having a great social experience, ultimately they’re going to maximize their potential as a player.
(Editor's note: Serratore's twin sons, Tom and Tim, each played hockey growing up in Colorado before playing collegiately in Minnesota. Tom played for the University of Minnesota and Tim played at Augsburg University.)