FAYAL TOWNSHIP, Minn. — Throughout his career, Mike Sertich has been known almost as much for his passion for fishing as he has for his work as a hockey coach. So he admits that being homebound in the middle of a Minnesota summer is no fun.
“It’s hard to walk by my garage with the boat sitting in it that’s not going anywhere,” Sertich joked on Friday, Aug. 23, as he recovers from a major abdominal surgery.
Sertich, 72, who led Minnesota Duluth to a trio of conference titles and on two Frozen Four trips during his 18 seasons coaching the Bulldogs, started feeling ill a few weeks ago. A meeting with physicians in Virginia, Minn., revealed gall stones, and they expected to perform a minor procedure to remove them.
“It sounded like it was going to be one hour, in and out and maybe go home the next day,” Sertich said.
When doctors found another hard-to-reach gall stone, the surgery got much more complicated.
“It was a very difficult separation process and they had to call in another surgeon," he said. Due "to the fact that I’m on some pretty high-octane blood thinners, it went from maybe a one-hour thing to four hours of surgery.”
Sertich, who hails from Virginia, played for the Bulldogs for three seasons and was an assistant coach at his alma mater before taking over the head coaching reins in 1982. He led them to the WCHA title and the Frozen Four in two of his first three seasons there, and was named the conference coach of the year in three consecutive years.
Sertich was dismissed by the school in 2000, then coached Michigan Tech for parts of three seasons before retiring in 2003.
He lives in a rural area south of Eveleth, Minn., but still makes it to Duluth for a few Bulldogs games each season. He is planning a follow-up trip to the doctor early next week and, if all is well, they expect he will be back to normal mobility in 6-8 weeks.
Consider that a warning to the walleyes of northern Minnesota.