Maple Grove hockey coach surprised by removal

5:03 PM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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MAPLE GROVE, Minn. - The Maple Grove hockey coach, who is at the center of the team's scandal, is no longer the head of his team.

Gary Stefano told the players after Wednesday night's game, that he is out.

In an interview with KARE 11 Thursday afternoon, Stefano said he has known about the decision by the district since February 19th. That's when he said the district sent him a letter telling him his contract would not be renewed.

"It's tough when you do this for 30-some years and 17 at the school. We feel we have a great program here," said Stefano.

He said he was not given a reason for the decision, nor did he want to speculate. He decided not to tell his players until the season was over to avoid distraction, he said.

"I didn't want to have any more disruptions. The kids went through enough. They paid their penalties and things were going very good," he said.

The team lost Wednesday night in the playoffs ending their season.

"I wanted to make sure my team were the first to hear about this. So after the game, the playoff game last night I was able to have a nice conversation with our boys. And it was pretty emotional telling them I am no longer going to be their head coach," he said.

More than half the players on the team were suspended after an 'off the ice' incident at a private home in December.

Stefano called the incident the worst experience in his 32 years of coaching. Maple Grove High School Principal Sara Vernig referred to the situation as devastating and disappointing.

The school district has refused to give details on the incident, citing data privacy laws. And Stefano did not want to talk about it either.

"You have some bumps in the road. You deal with it and move on and I can feel proud of the things we've done here at Maple Grove," he said. 

Stefano says he will continue as a junior high health and gym teacher in the district.

In a short statement, the Osseo Area School District confirmed Stefano would no longer be the head coach, but would not say much else.

"Maple Grove Senior High administrators are looking forward to hearing stakeholder perspectives as the school begins the process of hiring a new head hockey coach," said Babara Olson, district spokesperson.

Stefano said he is proud of what he and his teams throughout the years have accomplished.

Maple Grove won the last two conference titles and made it to the state tournament last year.

"We've had good kids, good parents, a good community," he said. "If I'm not going to be a head coach anymore I can hang my head high."

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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