Albert Lea hockey coach will be honored

Published 4:38am Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Albert Lea boys’ hockey head coach Roy Nystrom will be inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame during a banquet at 3:45 p.m. Thursday between games of the Class AA state hockey tournament, according to a press release.

Other inductees are Put Furlong, Lorne Grosso, George Larson and Herb Sellars.

Nystrom’s interest in hockey began at a young age on a rink across the street from his house in Eveleth, home of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. He recalled looking out of his bedroom window and seeing hockey icon, John Mayasich, skating on the rink wearing his Gophers jersey. Nystrom would put on his skates and join him for passing and skill instruction. From that point forward, he wanted to play for the Gophers and be a hockey coach.

While playing for Eveleth High School, the first part of that dream came true when John Mariucci, also an Eveleth native, offered him a scholarship to play for the Gophers from 1961-65. Following his college graduation, Roy fulfilled the second part of that dream when he accepted his first teaching and coaching position in Grafton, N.D., where he developed a fledgling program. He remained there four years before moving 40 miles south to Grand Forks Central High School, where his teams won three consecutive state championships. In 1973, he was named the North Dakota high school coach of the year.

After that season, Nystrom accepted a teaching and coaching position in Albert Lea, where he coached for the past 41 seasons and is currently second in the state, behind college teammate, rival coach and friend, Grosso, in career victories with 671. He coached more than 1,000 high school games, collected several section Coach of the Year awards and coached the Tigers to three state tournaments, including the Class A consolation title in 2005. In 2011, Albert Lea dedicated it’s arena in his honor, renaming the rink Roy Nystrom Arena.

Raised with a strong work ethic, which he passes along to his players, Nystrom is known for saying to his team before a game, “Pull up your bootstraps and get your lunch pails, boys. It’s time to go to work.” His post-game philosophy for himself and his team is, “Don’t get too high on the wins or too low on the losses.” Nystrom’s love of the game, the enjoyment he gets working with kids, his ability to teach life lessons through coaching and the fun of coaching with his son are all reasons why he continued coaching for 48 years. Four of his assistants are his former players, and he is often asked how long he will continue. His reply is, “I feel blessed to have been able to do this, and I will continue as long as I’m having fun and I’m healthy.”

Nystrom’s family includes his wife of 48 years, Jan; son, David; and daughter Stefanie; along with her family: husband, Randy Portner; and their sons, Riley, 13, and Ben, 9 — an AA peewee and A squirt for Lakeville — and daughter, Haley, 8.