Nystrom gets 600th victory

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Albert Lea boys’ hockey coach Roy Nystrom became part of an elite group of coaches Tuesday when his Tigers defeated John Marshall 6-2 in Rochester.

Casey Marka scored three goals and the Tigers fired 39 shots on goal as Nystrom became just the fourth coach in boys’ high school hockey history to record 600 wins. His career record now stands at 600-389-22, with 506 of those wins coming at Albert Lea in his 36 years as head coach. Only Bill Belisle, of Woonsocket Mt. St. Charles Academy in Rhode Island with 806 career wins, Edward Burns, of Arlington, Mass. with 695 career wins, and Willard Ikola, of Edina High School with 616, have more wins than Nystrom, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book.

Nystrom spent seven years coaching Grand Forks Central where he won three state championships and Coach of the Year honors for the 1972-73 season prior to accepting the Albert Lea head coaching position.

In an interview with the Tribune in 1973 when Nystrom accepted the Albert Lea head coach position he was asked about his goals upon taking the job.

“I’d like to make Albert Lea a winner in hockey,” he said in the interview, “But I can’t say how long it will take.”

It didn’t take very long at all, just four seasons and a season later his team set a school record for wins.

He’s certainly accomplished his goal of making Albert Lea a winner, helping guide the Tigers to five 20-win seasons, three trips to the state tournament, and a Big Nine title among other things.

Nystrom said he doesn’t make too much of the number of career wins.

“I really don’t think too much about that stuff to tell you the truth,” Nystrom said. “I think I’m more proud of my longevity. The 43 years I’ve been coaching is more important than that.”

The key to his longevity has been his ability to move beyond individual wins and losses.

“I don’t get too high on the wins and I don’t get too low on the losses,” Nystrom said. “I look at things realistically and I try to do my best.”

Nystrom grew up in Eveleth and played for the Golden Gophers. As a junior he led the team in scoring.

His linemate was Rochester Mayo head coach Lorne Grosso. Grosso is honing in on 600 career wins himself. He is two victories shy and Grosso could win No. 600 against his old linemate this week or next week. The Spartans face Faribault Thursday, and with a win Grosso would be in line for a chance at 600 against the Tigers Saturday. Or he could do it next Tuesday in a game that could determine the Big Nine Conference championship.

People say the hockey community is a small one. Here’s some further evidence: The man currently directly ahead of Nystrom for career coaching wins — Ikola, the all-time Minnesota high school career win leader, who coached Edina to 616 wins — was a neighbor of Nystrom’s when he grew up in Eveleth.

“When I look back on what I’ve done, I look back at the kids I’ve coached,” Nystrom said. “We’ve been very fortuante to have great kids to work with. It’s been a pleasure to be able to do what I’ve done.”

Albert Lea 6, John Marshall 2

Albert Lea 3 2 1 — 6

John Marshall 0 1 1 — 2

First period— 1, Albert Lea, Jordan Prescher-Smerud (Mike Falk, Tyler Brackey),10:30. 2, Albert Lea, Casey Marka (unassisted), 11:27. 3, Albert Lea, Marka (Prescher-Smerud), 16:07.

Second period— 4, Albert Lea, Blake Adams (Tyler Prihoda), :39. 5, Albert Lea, Marka (Cody Haaland, Prihoda), 2:41. 6, John Marshall, Alex Peterson (Zach Johnson, Reed Miller), 7:49 (pp.).

Third period— 7, John Marshall, Eric Mackey (Derek Hovick, Gavin Polansky), 9:24. 8, Albert Lea, Prihoda (Prescher-Smerud, Taylor Draayer), 14:26.

Shots on goal— Albert Lea 39. John Marshall 17.