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Boys hockey: Long-time Mayo coach to be inducted into Hall of Fame

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Lorne Grosso thought that being honored for his lengthy and successful coaching career, and giving the speeches that go along with those honors were a long way off.

"I told (my wife) Joannie 'I'm going to do this until I'm 90 so no one will know me and I won't have to dress up and get up there and give a speech,' " Grosso said with a laugh.

Then he sat down beside long-time friend Roy Nystrom, the long-time Albert Lea boys hockey coach, at a coaching clinic last fall, when nominations for the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Assocation Hall of Fame began to be announced.

Both Grosso and Nystrom's names were read.

"People started congratulating us," Grosso said. "I thought we were just nominated, I didn't know we were actually (going to be inducted).

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"Roy said 'They can't do this to us until we retire.' "

The former linemates at the University of Minnesota indeed will be inducted into the MHCA Hall of Fame on Thursday, along with another former Gophers teammate, Pat Furlong, who coached at Mound High School for many years. The three played for legendary Gophers coach John Mariucci in the mid-1960s before going on to successful coaching careers of their own.

"He would be very proud knowing that we're all still coaching and being honored like this," Grosso said of Mariucci. "He'd probably make a joke about us to the people around him, but deep down, he had a good heart. He acted tough, but he'd be very proud."

The banquet is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. at the RiverCentre Grand Ballroom, adjacent to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, between sessions of the Class AA boys hockey state tournament.

George Larson (Brooklyn Center) and Herb Sellars (Chisholm) will also be inducted.

Grosso, 71, goes into the Hall with 677 career victories, the most ever by a boys hockey coach in Minnesota. Three years ago, he passed legendary Edina coach Willard Ikola, who had 616 wins in his 33 seasons.

"He's been involved in a program he built from the ground up," said Mayo activities director Jeff Whitney, who played for Grosso in the 1980s and also served as an assistant coach with him. "I know he's very proud of that and the Hall of Fame is the rubber stamp on his successful career."

Grosso still enjoys coaching against Nystrom twice a year, too. Nystrom has 671 career victories, 577 of those at Albert Lea.

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"He wants to win," Whitney said of Grosso. "He and Roy will sit around, share a cup of coffee and talk and laugh before the game, but when they get on the bench they want to beat each other."

Grosso, who was honored by the American Hockey Coaches Association last May with the John Mariucci Award, said he has no intention of slowing down.

"I go year by year and just go by how I feel," said Grosso, who had major heart surgery in November 2011. "I've been given a gift of coaching and teaching. If I can still teach kids and skate and work with them and enjoy it ..."

Grosso has led Mayo to seven state tournaments and his teams have finished above .500 in 32 of the last 38 seasons.

"His demeanor, the way he talks to kids, jokes with them and relates to them, it's uncanny," Mayo assistant coach Todd Huyber said. "He has a great sense of humor and is always so even-keeled.

"It's still fun for him to come to the rink. If it wasn't still fun, he wouldn't come to the rink."

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