The Academy of Holy Angels boys' hockey team had made the bus ride through rush hour traffic to Victoria, where the Stars would be playing Chanhassen in a Missota Conference game.
Greg Trebil was in the tunnel leading from a locker room, sipping a cup of coffee and talking with his assistants. He was thin, not frail, with prominent gray hair.
This was not the look of a lightning rod in the political world of Minnesota high school hockey. This was the look of a grandfather.
"We have a seventh grandchild on the way," Trebil said. "Greg and his wife have two, Danny and his wife have two, and Ryan and his wife are going to have their third."
Trebil sipped the coffee and said: "We already have a 12-year-old granddaughter in the Edina program."
Holy Angels hired Trebil as its coach in the summer of 1996.
He was hired off his résumé as the Bantam A coach in the dynastic Bloomington Jefferson program. From 1999 through 2005, Holy Angels went to five Class 2A state tournaments, with titles in 2002 and '05.
The Stars have not been back to state since that '05 title. And the past two years have been rough for Trebil -- starting with the removal of his left lung in surgery before the 2010-11 season.
Trebil went through chemotherapy after the surgery. What's the outlook?
"OK right now," he said. "Hopefully, OK for a long time. I want to watch the grandkids grow up."
Trebil said those grandchildren are more of the reason than health as to why this is his last season as the head coach at Holy Angels. Last spring, Greg identified Billy Hengen -- one of his first standout players at the school -- as his preferred replacement.
Hengen is the associate head coach this season. He will be the head coach in 2012-13, with Greg as the director of hockey operations for both the boys' and girls' programs.
In Trebil's final season, the Stars have taken some beatings: 15-2 to Benilde-St. Margaret's, 8-2 to Breck, 9-3 to St. Thomas Academy, 15-3 to Burnsville. There was a loss to New Prague for the first time since 1991.
The Stars were 1-8 in December. They are 4-4-2 in January, after a 3-3 tie with Missota leader Chanhassen on Thursday night.
"We're playing a lot of young guys, and they have been getting better," Trebil said.
"We lost four upperclassmen -- all good players -- and that really left us short on experience."
There's no doubt what the response of present and former rivals would be over Trebil's program losing talented upperclassmen -- something like, "What goes around comes around," with a few adjectives.
When Trebil left Jefferson's program in '96, four of his Bloomington bantams followed him to Holy Angels. That created an immediate falling out with Tom Saterdalen, the Jefferson coaching legend who retired in 2002.
There was a boycott arranged by a few suburban coaches to not schedule Trebil's team. There was the longest investigation into recruiting for athletics ever conducted by the Minnesota State High School League. Trebil paid a $500 fine to the MSHSL for much lesser offenses than recruiting.
Skip Peltier led the investigation for the high school league.
"Skip was a fair man," Trebil said. "I had no problem with the way Skip went about his job."
Saterdalen was contacted Friday. It should be pointed out that Saterdalen and I had a disagreement over a column written a number of years ago and he said in Friday's conversation: "I don't know if I can trust you."
Asked if there had been any reconciliation with Trebil, Saterdalen said no, and added: "I do pray for Greg every single night. I can tell you that."
Saterdalen made it clear the prayers had been going on much longer than Trebil's battle with cancer -- presumably, dating to his concerns over Trebil's conduct of the Holy Angels hockey program.
"I don't want to go back through that stuff," Trebil said. "We've had a lot of great kids go through this program, including 10 that were captains on Division I college teams. That tells you something about leadership, about attitude, that has been gained at Holy Angels.
"Right now, there are a lot of good young people who want to be here. And Billy Hengen is going to do a great job coaching them. Holy Angels hockey is in good shape."
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • firstname.lastname@example.org