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Mike Stoskopf stands below some of the banners he helped hang in the rafters of John Gornick Memorial Arena. Photo by Bob Burrows

UPDATE: Stoskopf retiring as Raider boys' hockey coach

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Mike Stoskopf didn't hesitate when asked what he'll miss most about coaching the Raider boys' hockey team.

"The kids," he said. "The humor. Seeing kids push through and having courage. When everybody comes together, there's not much better than seeing a bunch of happy high school kids."

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Stoskopf announced his retirement as Hudson High School's boys' hockey coach last week after 24 years on the Raider bench. He came to Hudson in 1988 after coaching one year at Antigo and guided the Raiders to eight Big Rivers Conference championships, seven state tournament appearances, four final fours and two state titles, in 2001 and 2004. He leaves the program with a career record of 348-176-16.

Stoskopf, will continue to teach physical education at Hudson Middle School, but he said he feels it's the right time to step away from coaching.

"I've coached for 25 years and had a really fun time; I've really enjoyed it," he said. "To be honest, it takes a tremendous amount of energy. I feel like 25 years is a long time. But I feel good about the whole thing; I just feel it's time."

Stoskopf describes himself as "old school," and said the expectations of a high school hockey coach have changed over the years.

"The program has gone from where everybody makes the team to 25 guys don't, he said. "That wears on you; not being able to involve kids."

Stephanie DeVos, Hudson's athletic director since 2008, said it is Stoskopf's dedication to kids that makes him such a valued and successful coach.

"It has truly been a pleasure working with Mike the last four years and sharing his winning experiences," said DeVos. "But success at the high school level has more to do with preparing students for life than wins and losses. He taught citizenship, life-long skills and sportsmanship. He had a lasting impact on many kids' lives."

Stoskopf said working with kids has always been a big part of his life.

"That's really important to me," he said. "I've always been a believer in Jesus Christ, and I'm completely in line with his wisdom. I try to work hard and pray and things will work out well."

Stoskopf played in four high school state tournaments at Eagle River and went on to play at UW-Stevens point from 1981-84, serving as team captain in 1984. He had a brief stint with the Junior A Green Bay Bobcats of the United States Hockey League after college before beginning his teaching and coaching career.

Stoskopf said he began coaching at the Pee Wee level with his brother Jack, former coach at Stevens Point Area High School, in the mid-1980s. He said at the time he just wanted to shoot pucks with the kids. But he credits his father, also named Jack and Stoskopf's high school coach in Eagle River, with laying the foundation of his coaching philosophy.

"My dad was the best role model ever; he was my hero," Stoskopf said.

Stoskopf points to people like John Gornick and Terry Felland as reasons the Hudson Hockey Association is thriving today, and expressed gratitude to today's HHA members for making his job so rewarding.

"It's really been an honor to be the coach at Hudson," he said. "When you have a bunch of people working so hard so kids could have fun; they never get the credit but they do all the work."

Stoskopf said the list of people he wants to thank is a long one.

"I want to thank so many people it's hard to name them all," he said. "Great players, great hockey families. Tim Scharfenberg who I work with, the whole phy-ed department at the middle school; we talk coaching all the time. Gerry Uchytil has always been a go-to guy, Lynn Krueger, Dean Talafous, all the tremendous assistant coaches I've worked with. My brother Jack. And obviously my wife, Sue; she was all-in. She made yearbooks every year for the kids. I've spent 25 years trying to impress her. She's number one."

Stoskopf said he will continue to be a diehard Hudson Raider fan, but he's comfortable turning the program over to someone else.

"I'm good with it, I really am," he said. "I'll just sit in my little boat and watch the ship I used to steer, and I'll be pulling for the Raiders all the time. Who knows, maybe I can pop in and shoot pucks with the little kids."

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Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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