Century hockey FRONT 11-27
By Jason Feldman
Ask Bruce Frutiger about the top scorers in Rochester Century’s history and he’ll tell you about the mostly-anonymous third-line guys who did the dirty work for those scorers.
Ask Frutiger about the two Century teams he has coached to the state boys hockey tournament and he’ll tell you about the Panthers’ first varsity team, the one that laid the foundation for the highly successful teams that followed.
That’s the mindset Frutiger — Century’s head coach since the program’s inception — has instilled in all of his players over the past 10 years: Every player has an important role and the team is successful when every player buys into his role.
That philosophy that has helped Century develop a strong hockey tradition in a short time.
In just 10 years of varsity hockey Century has accomplished more than some programs that have existed two or three times as long. Century’s best season came two years ago when it placed third at the state tournament.
It was Century’s second trip to state in a three-year span, after four consecutive losses in the section finals.
"(Frutiger) is a family-first guy," said first-year Century assistant coach Cris Collins, who played three years of varsity hockey for Frutiger, graduating in 2003. "Things haven’t changed a lot. He instills the same things he always has. The older guys are leaders and the young players learn by watching the older guys."
From crawling to skating
Century took few baby steps. The Panthers went directly from crawling (a 6-16-1 debut varsity season in 1998-99) to skating (a 16-8-1 season and a spot in the Section 1AA championship game two years later).
Frutiger, who was the head coach at John Marshall prior to Century’s opening, said the Panthers wouldn’t have built as strong of a tradition had the first group of players not worked to put down the first building blocks.
"We wanted to do two things: Have fun and work harder than anyone around us," Frutiger said, stating the basic philosophy the Panthers still live by. "I think back to those players (on the first Century team) and we were just excited for the chance to do what we were doing. We didn’t have the skill level, so the guys came to the rink, worked their tails off and had a ton of fun."
Century made seven consecutive trips to the Section 1AA championship game, from 2001-07. The Panthers won the Big Nine Conference in just three of those years and at least twice were seeded fourth or lower entering the section tournament.
"There were a quite a few years where we’d say ‘it doesn’t matter what other people think, it matters what we think.’ That wasn’t just me saying it to the boys; they were saying that to me.
"Often we were greater than the sum of our parts."
Lunch pail and hard hat
Collins describes Frutiger as a coach who "is known for bringing his lunch pail and hard hat to practice every day."
Whether Frutiger is asked about the program’s only NHL draft pick (goalie Alex Kangas) or a third-line player who specialized in keeping other teams’ top players off the scoreboard, his eyes light up just the same.
"I think he really likes sitting back and watching the guys" who have gone on to play at higher levels, Collins said, "but the philosophy of Century hockey has always been to work hard in school, work hard on the ice and have fun."
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