High School ice Hockey, Hovey leaves his mark Kent Roosevelt coach led team to state title in 1980s

By Tom Hardesty Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Bernie Hovey remembers his first game behind the bench as Kent Roosevelt's ice hockey coach as if it happened yesterday. It was the opening game of the 1976-77 season, and Hovey, then 29-years old, and his Rough Riders were hoping to prove themselves against a powerful Cleveland Heights team. But it wasn't the kind of proof they were looking for: Hovey's Rough Riders lost 21-0 to the eventual state champions. Twenty-one to nothing. There almost isn't enough time in a game to score 21 goals, is there? "There was that day," said Hovey. "I remember driving home, screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs. But those kids worked hard, bounced back and ended up a .500 team. To this day, that's one of my favorite teams." From those humble beginnings, Hovey fashioned the Rough Riders into a state power. In two coaching stints at Roosevelt, the first from 1976-1987 and the second from 1997-2000, Hovey's Rough Riders were state champions in 1981-82, state runnersup the previous season, and almost always were one of the premier teams in their league. Hovey retired from coaching after last season and is serving as an advisor with the team this year under first-year head coach Kirk Koennecke _ a Hovey protg. Koennecke was a freshman goaltender with the Rough Riders at the end of Hovey's first stint in 1986-87, then was an assistant under Hovey the past three years prior to taking over as head coach this season. "I do miss it," said Hovey, who was also the head coach at Parma Heights Valley Forge from 1971-74. "I miss it because I really loved it, and I think this senior class is nothing but outstanding, quality young men. But I don't miss it enough to give up the things I'm involved in." Hovey is a councilman in Silver Lake, and teaches at Kent State as well as at Roosevelt. "I wouldn't be able to be at all the practices and I'd be arriving there late or leaving early at times, so it would have been unfair to the kids and the program if I had stayed on as head coach," said Hovey, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1969 with a degree in economics. "But I'm very, very happy with what we accomplished (in Hovey's tenure). I'm sure I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but there were a lot of good things that happened, too." Under Hovey's tutelage, Roosevelt hockey entered something of a Golden Age, creating a legacy that lives on today. "I think the Kent Roosevelt hockey program has a very strong tradition, just like the other sports," said Koennecke. "Tradition is created by winning seasons, and you can't get much better than a state-runnerup finish and a state-championship finish and a four- or five-year run when Roosevelt hockey was dominant." Was it ever. In the state-runnerup year of 1980-81, the Rough Riders went 26-6 overall, won the East Central Division with a 12-0 record, and advanced to the state championship game before losing to Shaker Heights 10-4 in the final. "I thought we should have won it that year," said Hovey, "but the kids were young and I was a young coach. Sometimes seniors just aren't going to let juniors win, and when I look back, Shaker Heights had all the seniors and I had all the juniors." Things were different in 1981-82, though. Led by talented veterans such as Bill Huffnagle, Scott Heim, Eric Kannal and Randy Madey, along with junior goaltender Bill DeAngelis, the Rough Riders were nearly unstoppable, going 28-2-1. They again won the ECD with a 12-0 mark and won the Baron Cup, but the championship train was nearly derailed in the sectionals. The Rough Riders were tied with Cleveland Heights 1-1 going into the third period before exploding for a 5-1 victory. The state championship game against Sylvania Northview at the Brooklyn Recreation Center stretched the Rough Riders' stamina, courage and ability to the breaking point. They trailed 2-0 after the first period, tied it up at 2-2 after two periods, fell behind 3-2 in the third period, then sent the game into overtime tied at 3-3. With both teams skating on leaden legs in the extra session, Madey asked his coach for a breather. "I told him to go out there and give me another 30 seconds," said Hovey. It may have been the smartest move Hovey ever made as a coach: moments later, Madey scored the goal that gave Kent Roosevelt its first and only state ice hockey championship. "He fired a shot from just inside the blue line along the boards," said Hovey. "It wasn't a real high-percentage shot, but somehow it got past the goalie." You can imagine what happened next. "It was bedlam," said Hovey. "Everyone went nuts and ran out on the ice. It was the first time I ever left the bench to join the celebration on the ice. "I jumped on the pile like a crazy man, and someone sliced my finger with their skate. That just shows you I wasn't the smartest coach all the time." Maybe not, but through the years Hovey did prove to be one of the fairest. "I think he has always tried to do what's best for the kids," said Koennecke, "and in a team sport, that's tough. Coach Hovey expected character. He expected us to carry ourselves in a certain manner and show responsibility." That trait can be traced back to the infamous 21-0 loss in Hovey's first game. To keep the ship from sinking, the Rough Riders needed to remove some of the team's deadweight _ players who usually weren't on the right side of discipline. And it didn't take long for discipline to become a Hovey trademark. "I'm pretty demanding, and I also think I'm pretty fair and consistent in what I expect," he said. "I try not to be unreasonable and I would hope my players had fun playing for me. But I wasn't always the easiest guy to get along with. "The kids knew where I stood. If they broke the rules, no matter who they were, they knew the rules would be enforced." Usually, though, Hovey's players responded in a positive manner, as his 210-149-16 career mark attests. "The most important thing to me was I was teaching kids something, not just about hockey but about life," he said. "I don't think that can be measured in wins and losses. Through the years those kids worked so hard for me, and I'm just very appreciative of it." After this season, Hovey will walk away from the bench for the last time. No coaching, no advising, no nothing. He's leaving for good _ on his terms. "I have a completely different outlook on things now," he said. "I've mellowed a lot and I just don't have the same drive and desire anymore. There was always something pushing me before, but I don't have anything to prove to anybody now."

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