One of the Gophers coaches who will miss Joel Maturi next school year at the 'U' is Don Lucia.
Lucia became the men's hockey coach at the University of Minnesota in 1999-2000. Maturi, who announced he was leaving his post as athletic director at the 'U' this summer, came a few years later.
“One of great things about Joel," Lucia said on Thursday, "with the places he had worked before coming here - Miami, Denver, Wisconsin – he had a great understanding of hockey. “
Lucia said he was hopeful the next AD has a similar understanding of the sport that he coaches.
Maturi caused himself some needless grief at the end of the last hockey season. Only a couple of days after Alaska Anchorage had swept the Gophers at Mariucci Arena in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, Maturi said he has going to bring Lucia back as coach.
Many fans, including alumni of the program, weren't ready to hear those words so soon after the Gophers had missed the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. And they let Maturi know it.
He stuck with his man, though, and gave Lucia, who had only one year left on his contract (2011-12), a three-year extension.
So far that decision has looked good. The Gophers are in first place in the WCHA standings and rated either No. 1 or 2 in the national polls with only eight regular-season games left.
They could win the MacNaughton Cup for the first time in five years.
Personally, I like Maturi if not some of his decisions. You could never tell where he would show up.
On selection Sunday for volleyball, Maturi would be at Williams Arena with the volleyball team. Or at a wrestling meet. Or at the Notre Dame-Gophers hockey game to hand out a trophy. Or he would show up at the Golden Goldys, an annual ESPY-style awards events. Or at a women's hockey game against Wisconsin. "Great game isn't in?" he said to me.
Not sure he needed to be at all those events, but he was. He returned calls, too, even when on a mini-vacation.
He had a tough job. He worked hard at it. And sometimes the fans and the media, me included, didn't like what he did. But I think he gave it his best. There is something to be said for that.
SKATE WITH GOPHERS COMING UP
The annual Skate with the Gophers event will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Mariucci Arena. Kids and adults will be able to skate with players during their designated time, get autographs and take photos with their favorite players.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for youth whether someone skates or not. Those who want to skate need to bring their own stakes.
Call 612-624-8080 to reserve a time to skate. Enter Mariucci through the East lobby, then go to Section 11 and down the stairs to ice level.
WATCH FUTURE GOPHERS FRIDAY
The Penticton Vees, with the three Reilly brothers who have signed with the Gophers for next season, will play the Chilliwack Chiefs at 9 p.m. Friday in what could be a historic game.
The Vees have won 28 BCHL games in a row, one more victory would tie a league record which goes back more than 20 years. You can watch the game here for a small charge.
Don's son, Mario Lucia, and five other Minnesotans also play for the Vees.