AUSTIN EDITION - For head coach Holtz the puck stops here
Troy Holtz wanted to become the next boys hockey coach at Austin High, but he was leery about replacing a good friend.
When Denny Laumeyer retired as the Austin High boys hockey coach after last season, a big part of Holtz, Austin's assistant coach, wanted the job. But another part of him was reluctant.
"From the first day it was open, I wanted to take the job," Holtz said. "But Denny's a good friend, and he's not going to be there. And I didn't know if I wanted to (coach) without him. It's going to be hard."
Holtz, 31, spent 10 years as an assistant under Laumeyer, the most successful boys hockey coach in school history. Holtz eventually applied for the job, and he was recently hired.
"We're happy about that," Austin High activities director Naomi Hatfield said of hiring Holtz. "He loves the kids, and he loves the program."
Officiating makes mark
Holtz will be a good fit for the program. He knows Austin hockey from the ground up.
"I've got a good connection with the kids," Holtz said. "I've seen them every step of the way."
In addition to being an assistant hockey coach, Holtz has also been a youth-league official. He believes his biggest connection with the players has been through officiating.
"It's like I'm scouting these kids, but I've done it for seven years," he said.
Laumeyer guided the Packers to a pair of state tournaments, including in the 2000-01 season when Austin was 20-6-1. A year ago, the Packers lost in the Section 1AA semifinals and finished 16-7. Despite recent success and a number of good players in the system, Holtz doesn't feel pressure entering the high-profile job.
"No, not really," Holtz said. "There's quite a bit of talent still around."
Plus, he knows Laumeyer is just a block away from his Austin house if he has any troubles. But Holtz anticipates a smooth transition. He said Laumeyer was not a control freak, and treated him like a co-coach. Holtz was in charge of the defensemen.
"I even got to do line shift and changes," Holtz said. "That's probably the greatest thing I got to do under Denny."
The extra duties helped prepare Holtz for the top job, and he will bestow the same freedoms on his yet-to-be-named assistant. Holtz hopes his longtime officiating partner Dave Hart will be given a shot at the job. Hart is a former USHL player for the Austin Mavericks.
Holtz realizes there are other coaches in Austin who might be qualified for the assistant job.
"We have some good coaches in town," he said. "I think each coach can teach the kids something."
Works as a golf pro
Holtz is old-school. He believes athletes should play as many sports as they can. He hopes many of his players are two- and three-sport athletes. Holtz was that way himself. He played four years of Junior Gold hockey in high school in his home town of Waseca. He was on the Bluejays baseball team that finished third in the state his junior year and second his senior year under legendary coach Tink Larson.
Holtz went on to play college baseball, including two years at Riverland in Austin, and two years of Junior B hockey in the Twin Cities.
"I love baseball, and I love hockey," Holtz said. He still plays amateur baseball as a player/manager for the Austin-Hayfield Athletics. He says he has also learned a lot about coaching from playing baseball and managing with Joe Serratore of the Austin Greyhounds.
Holtz makes his full-time living in the sports world. He is the club pro at the Oaks Golf Course in Hayfield. That job gives him plenty of time to coach the Packers.
"I have all the time in the world in the winter to devote to hockey," he said.
In the summer, he devotes 60 to 70 hours a week to the golf course. But that will soon change, and he will be ready for hockey.
"I think my goal the first year is to have the kids enjoy the game," Holtz said. "Of course, you have a good time when you win more."
Guy N. Limbeck is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. His column runs every Thursday. He can be reached at email@example.com.