Rochester Mayo activities director Jeff Whitney chuckled as he said it:
"If the next hockey coach I hire stays around as long as Lorne (Grosso), it'll be 2066 when he retires," Whitney said. "I definitely won't be around for that."
Odds are, the next coach won't have the attributes necessary — starting at a young age, patience, humility, hockey sense, a thick skin and a passion to coach for five decades — to match Grosso's track record.
That's no knock on the next coach.
It's a credit to Grosso, who coached his final game at Graham Arena on Saturday, a 4-1 victory by his Mayo team against rival Rochester Century. He'll retire at the end of this season, whenever that may come.
The Spartans open the Section 1AA playoffs at Lakeville South on Thursday. Should they win that game, they'll play in Rochester again, but not at Graham, which has been Grosso's home away from home since it opened during Grosso's third season as Mayo's coach.
"Seeing all of the people who came today, some of them traveled to get here," Grosso said after Saturday's game, "you really know who your friends are, the people you admired and who admired you.
"It's amazing to have them all here. They're the people who make you who you are — your friends and your family."
Whitney, who played for Grosso and later served with him as a co-head coach, gave his speech prior to Saturday's game. He also presented a framed Mayo jersey, with Grosso's name and the No. 49 stitched on the back, to represent the 49 seasons Grosso spent as the program's coach (he took a one-year sabbatical to Italy in the 1987-88 school year).
No. 49 will be retired at Mayo and the jersey will hang in Graham Arena, Whitney said. The jersey was presented by players from Grosso's first and last teams — Steve Leqve of the 1966-67 team and senior captain Nick Norby of this season's team.
Grosso, 73, admitted he was emotional on the bench prior to the game. The native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was surprised to find that in addition to the "Star Spangled Banner," Whitney arranged for the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada," to be performed.
"I did get choked up," Grosso said. "My brother, my family were in the stands ... I had no clue that was coming."
He will retire as the all-time wins leader in Minnesota and, as of now, he is the only hockey coach to win more than 700 games in state history. He brings a 707-445-29 career record into the postseason.
Grosso's teams finished over .500 in 36 of his 49 seasons and he guided seven teams to state tournaments between 1982 and 2000.
"Two things have kept me going so long," Grosso said. "The first is the players and the coaches — the coaches are my best friends. The second is the people who told me I couldn't do it. They've made it that much more of a challenge for me."
O'Hara scholarships presented
The Shannon O'Hara Foundation presented its annual scholarships to two Rochester senior hockey players on Saturday during the second intermission of the Mayo vs. Century game at Graham Arena.
A pair of Mayo players are this year's recipients — Abby Marquardt and JT Rein.
The foundation is named after Shannon O'Hara, a Rochester hockey player who was just 13 years old when she died after a nine-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor. Many of the Mayo players wore skate laces that are lime green — Shannon's favorite color — and taped their sticks with lime green tape.
Her parents, Dan and Jen O'Hara, presented the scholarships to the players. This year's award brought extra significance for the O'Haras, as Shannon would have been a senior this season.
Dan O'Hara proudly announced the foundation has raised more than $100,000 in its four years and has issued more than $20,000 in scholarships to local hockey players.