N.D. STATE HOCKEY NOTEBOOK: A Mr. Hockey behind the bench
Matt Stockert never set state scoring records or played on a state championship team as a high school hockey player in North Dakota.
But he has two claims to fame -- he's the state's first winner of the Mr. Hockey Award (1991) and the only winner of that high school award to come back and rise to head coach in the state.
Stockert and his Jamestown Blue Jays were back in the 2011 state tournament in Grand Forks on Thursday, sort of a trip down memory lane for Stockert.
At least two other boys Mr. Hockey winners -- Jamestown's Joe Vannett (1995) and Grand Forks Red River's Mark Bry (1997) -- have been assistant coaches at North Dakota high schools, but only Stockert has run his own program.
Jamestown finished third in the state tourney in 1991, sparked by Stockert's outstanding play.
"My linemates helped out quite a bit," Stockert said. "I had a good supporting cast. In my eyes, it's a team award."
Stockert is in his seventh season coaching the Blue Jays and in his first year in the state tournament with his team.
"We're kind of a work in progress," Stockert said.
As a head coach, he's now part of the profession that chooses the award winner each year. It's now called the Outstanding Senior Award, an offspring of the Mr. Hockey Award originated by and sponsored by the Grand Forks Herald in the early years.
"Coaches take pride in naming that individual (winner)," Stockert said. "We sit around and hash it out and what-not. I don't think it's ever got real heated, but it's definitely a humbling experience for anyone who has won it. The good thing is that I have no idea what the coaches of that time (1991) were talking about."
Where does the Mr. Hockey Award rank on his career list of highs?
"To be honest with you," Stockert said, "I would have much preferred to win the state championship that year over winning that award."
He received a plaque when he won the award. "I think my mom and dad have it in our house," Stockert said. "I have no idea where it is, to be honest with you."
The true MVP
As meaningful as the Outstanding Senior Award is in state hockey and to the winner, it's hard to argue who the true MVP is all season long.
That would be Bob Gillen, who has kept all the statistics and standings on a state-wide basis on his web site since 1999.
It's where the media, coaches, scouts, players, fans, parents and grandparents flock to check out what's going on in North Dakota high school hockey. From complete standings, results and statistics, it's the only source in the state to have all the information.
Gillen, a Grand Forks native, began doing this when he got out of coaching in Hazen in 1999.
"I've always had a passion doing stats," Gillen said, "beginning with stats for my dad's softball team when I was young."
His service is invaluable to many and can be found at ndhighschoolhockey.com.
When he joined the Park District Office in Grand Forks in 1999, he asked the state high school league if he could compile the hockey stats for them on a state-wide basis. They told him he could try it, and they'd see how it went.
It's gone gangbusters.
Gillen does get paid $175 per school for his service for the entire season, but updating scores and stats every night there's a game in the state makes it more a labor of love than anything.
Much to the relief of everyone, Gillen continues his service even though he moved to Colorado with his family last summer. Coaches fax him box scores of every game, and he feeds that information into his computerized statistical data.
The web site has gotten bigger than Gillen ever imagined. "I'm getting emails now from grandmas or grandpas and snowbirds in Florida or Arizona that have grandkids playing, and from former players who live out of state and follow their schools," Gillen said.
That others find it useful means more to Gillen than the small stipend he receives. "I'm not in it for the money," Gillen said. "I wanted to start this site to promote the kids and high school hockey in North Dakota. I think it's doing that."
And there was Gillen Thursday afternoon, back from Colorado for the weekend, perched in his corner of press box and updating tournament statistics and scores as they came in.
A labor of love indeed, but so valuable to so many.
She drives defenses Maddy
After Bismarck's 3-1 loss to Grand Forks in the opening round of the girls state tournament on Thursday, Bismarck's Maddy Gendreau won't be able to bookend her high school career with state championships.
She played on Bismarck's state title team as an eighth grader in 2007 and now is completing her fifth and final season as a varsity regular.
She'll leave behind quite the legacy. With an assist on Bismarck's lone goal Thursday, she has 327 career points (goals and assists).
Three of the top eight seasons in girls hockey history in North Dakota belong to Gendreau. She had 86 points her sophomore season, has 82 so far this year and had 71 as a freshman. Her three top scoring seasons trail only former Williston player Emily Sell, who ranks 1-2-4 in season points with Gendreau checking in at 3-5-7.
"She's one of the best hockey players I've had the pleasure to coach," Bismarck coach Matt Strinden said. "She always works hard, always comes ready to play. She has carried our team on a number of occasions on her back. She certainly is a special player."
Gendreau hopes to play in college, perhaps at Bemidji State, where her father once played. She's had talked with the Beavers, but said she has no offer from BSU yet or any other school.
She gave it her best effort on Thursday. "We definitely played like a team today, and gave it our best shot," Gendreau said. "Fifth (place) is the best we can do now, so that's our goal."