John's Journal
Winter Weather Results In A Crazy Weekend12/10/2010
When weather experts predicted up to two feet of snow and drifts high enough to bury an elephant, we all knew it was time to hunker down for the weekend. High school activity schedules took a hit over the weekend from the storm that brought snow, cold and wind to Minnesota.

The biggest surprise from the storm was the deflation of the Metrodome. If you haven't seen video of the heavy snow making the roof cave in early Sunday morning, it's definitely worth a look.

One of the big early events on the boys’ basketball schedule was postponed; the 14-game Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Minnetonka High School. It was scheduled for Saturday and the organizers say they plan to reschedule. Many other events across the state also were affected by this weekend's storm.

But now, as we begin a new week and move closer to the holidays, let's be grateful that the storm has passed and we made it through safely.

Have a great week!
A Volunteer Morning For The MSHSL Staff12/9/2010
MSHSL World Headquarters was a pretty quiet place Thursday morning as much of the MSHSL staff volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization that engages volunteers to hand-pack meals formulated specially for starving children. The meals are distributed in nearly 70 countries around the world.

MSHSL employees, along with volunteers from several other organizations, helped prepare more than 23,000 meals, which will feed 65 children for a year. The meals, consisting of rice, soy, vegetables, vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian chicken flavoring, are hand-packed in small pouches, with each pouch providing six highly nutritious meals.

A total of 104 volunteers at Feed My Starving Children’s Coon Rapids facility also packed the pouches into boxes for shipping on Thursday morning; 110 boxes, with 216 meals in each box, were filled. That totals 23,760 meals.

It was an enjoyable, rewarding experience for the MSHSL staff members.

For more information on Feed My Starving Children, go to www.fmsc.org.
On The Road Again For Some Hockey And Some History 12/8/2010
Call me a silly Minnesotan if you wish, but I really enjoy taking to the road on a frigid winter night and doing some exploring. That was the plan on Tuesday: leave home as the sun was dipping below the horizon, drive south while the temperature danced just on the positive side of zero and drive past country homes all decked out in holiday lights.

The objective was a boys’ hockey game in Rochester. If all went well, history would be made. But getting there – and home again – is half the fun for me, and that was the case this time. Again, feel free to call me goofy, but spending time on the road, tuning the iPod to Johnny Cash (name that tune: “I've been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota … Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota … Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma … Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma …”) and just driving is fun. A clear road, a good game, watching the garage door open up to greet me at 11 p.m. and writing until well after midnight; this is the business we have chosen. And business is really good.

Tonight’s focus was Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom. He came into Tuesday’s game against Rochester John Marshall with 616 career victories. Former Edina coach Willard Ikola, one of the game’s legendary figures, also won 616 games before ending his 32-year coaching career. Nystrom is in his 45th year of coaching, but there is another fact to his victory total that gets some folks a little riled up.

Nystrom’s first 94 victories came while he was coaching in North Dakota. There’s the rub for the Minnesota hockey purists. They argue that Ikola won more games in fewer years and all of them were in Minnesota. Those arguments hold water, but as Nystrom said after his boys beat John Marshall 7-4, “617 is 617 no matter where you got 'em.” (That's Nystrom in the photo, getting a congratulatory hug as the game ended.)

On a national scale, there’s no arguing that Nystrom now ranks ahead of Ikola. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book, here are the top five:
1. 897 Bill Belisle, Rhode Island
2. 695 Edward Burns, Massachusetts
3. 623 Ron Baum, Michigan
4. 617 Roy Nystrom, North Dakota and Minnesota
5. 616 Willard Ikola, Minnesota

Close on their heels is Rochester Mayo coach Lorne Grosso,who got his 610th win earlier this week. Grosso and Nystrom are great friends who were linemates at the University of Minnesota.

In 32 seasons, Ikola’s record was 616-149-38. His Edina teams won eight state titles (1969, '71, '74, '78, '79, '82, '84 and '88) and finished second twice. Nystrom has won 523 games in 38 years at Albert Lea, with the first 94 coming in seven years in North Dakota. He has taken three teams to state tournaments (2004, 2005 and 2007).

The connection between the two coaches goes all the way back to Eveleth, Minnesota, when the Ikola and Nystrom families lived a few blocks apart. Ikola is 11 years older than Nystrom, who remembers watching Willard play goaltender for Eveleth High School.

“He was a great goaltender,” Nystrom said after Tuesday’s game.

Nystrom (talking to his team during a timeout in the photo below) said he takes more pride in his coaching longevity than the number of wins. “My biggest accomplishment is lasting that long. Those 45 rank ahead of 617.”

He coached in Grafton and Grand Forks, N.D., before moving to Albert Lea. “A North Dakota teacher’s salary was not what you would call lucrative,” he said with a smile. He had opportunities to leave Albert Lea over the years, “but I never really considered leaving,” he said.

His coaching staff includes his son David and Jon Breuer, the leading scorer in Albert Lea hockey history. Roy Nystrom said he has no plans to retire, but he will know it’s time “when my son and Jonny have to carry me out and show me where the ice is.”

TIDBITS …

--A tip of the hat to John Marshall athletic director Paul Cox and his crew for a classy move Tuesday night. Before the game, this announcement was made to the crowd at Rochester Recreation Center: “Tonight, we have a special announcement. John Marshall High School would like to congratulate Albert Lea’s head coach, Roy Nystrom, on his successful coaching career and tying Willard Ikola as the winningest coach in state history.”

After the game, this announcement was made: “At this time, we would like to congratulate Albert Lea head coach Roy Nystrom on becoming the winningest coach in state history. Congratulations Coach Nystrom!"

--I saw two things fall from the sky during the game. The first was a puck, which came over the glass near where I was sitting and rattled around before I leaned over and grabbed it. I am holding it hostage until I can have Nystrom autograph it for me. Why didn’t I think of that before I left the arena? Darn good question. I also saw popcorn raining down. I was sitting at my laptop in the scorekeeper’s area. The fans are stationed about 10 feet above that spot, and someone spilled a little bit of popcorn near my spot. Could have been worse. Could have been liquid.

--On the way home I smelled a distinctive odor as I stopped at a red light on Highway 52. The windows were rolled up tight and the heat was blasting, so this was one strong smell. Skunk. Big skunk. Dead skunk. Big stinky dead skunk. I’m lookin’ at you, Cannon Falls.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 261
*Miles John has driven: 5,531

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
National Academic Honor For Bloomington Jefferson Athlete12/7/2010
Bloomington Jefferson boys’ soccer player Scott Clinton has been named an Academic All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He is the only Minnesotan selected in 2010 and one of only 36 players to receive the honor across the country.

Clinton is a four-year starter and captain for the Jaguars. While playing soccer at Jefferson, the team qualified for the MSHSL state tournament three times and won the Academic Silver Award three times. Clinton was an all-state selection and a first-team all-metro selection during the 2010 season.

Clinton is the first player in the history of the Bloomington Jefferson boys’ soccer program to be selected for the award.
A Few Scattered Thoughts And Observations … 12/6/2010
After being inside the Lindbergh Center at Hopkins High School on Saturday – which was Minnesota Basketball Central for the day, with 11 girls’ games and two boys’ games – I have gathered up all my sportswriting instincts and developed a few thoughts.

Thought No. 1: It’s not always good to be ranked No. 1 (or maybe No. 2).

Defending state champion Lakeville North was the preseason No. 1 team in Class 4A girls and Eden Prairie was No. 2. Both teams lost Saturday during the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins. No. 3 Hopkins beat North 83-64 and Eden Prairie lost to Hill-Murray (No. 2 in 3A) 59-45.

Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the defending champion and top-ranked team in 3A, also lost at Hopkins, falling to Bloomington Kennedy (No. 5 in 4A) 51-49. The No. 3 team in 3A, DeLaSalle, beat unranked 4A Minnetonka in double overtime.

In other words, it looks like a wild ride in girls’ basketball.

Thought No. 2: Hopkins is pretty good at boys’ basketball.

This just in … the Hopkins Royals are the team to beat in 4A boys. The Royals own the last two 4A state titles and look like a solid favorite to make it three in a row. They beat Lakeville North 73-57 Saturday in one of the boys’ games at the Tip-off Classic, using a very familiar formula: passing, patience, athleticism and defense. Division I signees Joe Coleman (Minnesota) and Marvin Singleton (Northern Iowa) lead the way for Hopkins.

Keep both eyes on DeLaSalle: The Islanders completed a sweep of Minnetonka at the Tip-Off Classic, with the boys beating the Skippers 87-67. The DeLaSalle boys are ranked No. 2 in 3A behind defending state champ St. Paul Johnson. Johnson opened the season on Friday with a 61-60 victory at Lakeville South, which is No. 5 in 4A.

Thought No. 3: Can Lakeville North complete a rare girls’ double?

Lakeville North won the large-school state volleyball state title in November, and the Panthers also have one of the top girls’ basketball teams in the big class. If North wins another basketball championship, it will be the first time that one school won large-school state titles in volleyball and girls’ basketball in the same school year.

Has that feat been accomplished by schools outside the biggest class? That is your homework assignment for the week. Do some research and send your findings via email. Grades may be publicly posted.

My assignments this week include hockey and basketball, with wrestling on the horizon. I’m planning (weather permitting, of course) to be in Rochester on Tuesday night for a boys’ hockey game between Albert Lea and Rochester John Marshall. The Breakdown Tip-Off Classic returns for round two on Saturday at Minnetonka, with 14 boys’ basketball games scheduled.

Next week I’m planning two road trips; one to Breckenridge and Hawley and another to Rochester for the Minnesota Christmas Wrestling tournament. Let’s all keep an eye on the weather, and give me a wave if you see me on the highway.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 259
*Miles John has driven: 5,394

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn