“Assist” is a key statistic in hockey. While coaching the White Bear Lake girls, Jerry Kwapick always got huge assists from his wife, three daughters, and sons-in-law.
Now that the clan is getting larger, Kwapick is stepping away, after 10 solid seasons. A promotion at his banking job is also a factor.
“We’ve got two grandchildren now,” said Kwapick. “And in my ‘real’ job, I just got a new position that I have to devote more time to. So it seemed like the right time.”
Kwapick was able to quit after the the highlight of his 10-year tenure, as the Bears, after a so-so regular season, shut out three section opponents and reached the state tournament, capped by a 2-0 win over longtime nemesis Hill-Murray. They lost both games at state.
“The smiles on the girls faces after they finally beat Hill is something I’ll remember the rest of my life,” said Kwapick. “That was like a state championship for them.”
Kwapick, who announced his resignation at the team banquet March 27, had 148 wins, 99 losses and 27 ties in his decade at the helm. He reflected that “working with the fabulous student athletes over the years” was always a joy, and daily interactions with them is what he will miss most.
A banker for 36 years, he is currently SVP Chief Sakes Officer for Lake Area Bank, which he credits for being “very supportive of my coaching commitment” and willing to give him the time he needed to coach.
Kwapick’s wife, Linda, helped him “from the start to the finish,” working on such tasks as penalty box, team statistics, fund-raising, and with this year’s team move from the Vadnais rink to White Bear Sports Center.
Kwapick’s youngest daughter, Heidi, played her last two high school seasons for him. (He had also coached Heidi’s group when they won the U12 state tournament.) His oldest and middle daughters, Carrie and Nicole, each were assistant coaches for three years. In addition, two sons-in-law, and a son-in-law-to-be, have assisted with the game clock, penalty box and fund-raising.
“I am one blessed man, being able to coach high school hockey in my own community, and with my entire family involved,” Kwapick said. “Any success I may have had with this program was because of my fabulous family.”
Here’s the kicker. After the big win over Hill-Murray on Feb. 15, Nicole went into labor, and she and husband David had their baby, Landon, two days later. “How was that for a memory maker,” the coach marveled.
Kwapick played for Kellogg High School in the 1970’s, and for Hamline from 1979-83. As with his coaching career, college hockey was a family thing; his brothers Jim and Clemence were his teammates with the Pipers. “Highlight of my career,” he said.
Brian Peloquin, White Bear Lake activities director, said the district will conduct and full search and interview process.
“Coach Kwapick has been an asset to our girls hockey program, the high school and the greater White Bear Lake community,” said Peloquin. “His passion for working with our student athletes and dedication to hockey at White Bear Lake will be hard to replace.”