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Moving on up: Scanlan takes over Bemidji State women's hockey program

Cottage Grove native and new Bemidji State women’s hockey coach Jim Scanlan speaks at his introductory press conference in June. (Bemidji Pioneer photo by Monte Draper) 1 / 2
Cottage Grove native Jim Scanlan led East Grand Forks’ girls hockey team to a runner-up finish at the Class A state tournament this spring. (Grand Forks Herald photo by Eric Hylden) 2 / 2

Cottage Grove native Jim Scanlan was there to answer when his alma mater came knocking.

Scanlan, a Park grad, agreed to become the women’s hockey head coach at Bemidji State University, the same school where he starred and won consecutive national titles on the ice for the men’s team in the late 70s and early 80s, last month. He officially takes over the post on July 1.

“[It’s] a place that’s obviously meant a lot to me and my family,” Scanlan said of Bemidji State. “It was very tempting and I’m obviously very, very fortunate to get that job.”

The new position marks the end of Scanlan’s 18-year reign at East Grand Forks High School. He accomplished quite a bit during his time there.

While serving as the school’s athletic director, Scanlan led a thriving athletics department that just this spring saw its boys hockey team win a Class A state title, had its boys hoops team make it to the state tournament and witnessed its girls hockey program, coached by Scanlan, finish as the runner-up in its first state appearance in program history. The Green Wave also won a state championship in football in 2004.

“I feel as though I’ve left [the department] in a really good spot,” Scalan said. “It’s definitely gotten better on a yearly basis, so I feel it’s really healthy right now. We’ve got really good numbers in our youth programs and I feel really good about where our girls hockey program is right now here in East Grand Forks, no question.”

Scanlan entrenched himself in the East Grand Forks community during his time in the area. He established relationships throughout the school and the region. Those relationships are what he said he’s going to miss most.

“Those are the things that you’re going to remember,” he said. “It’s just the people. Those are the memories that we’re going to take with us. The relationships and the friendships.”

Scanlan said leaving those relationships behind has made the move “extremely difficult,” but the timing was too perfect to pass up a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to coach the Beavers.

His youngest child just graduated from East Grand Forks this spring, and his daughter, who played soccer for the Beavers and graduated from Bemidji State, still lives in the Bemidji area.

Still, Scanlan wasn’t immediately positive he wanted the job. He received a few calls from people asking about his interest in the position, but at the time he was still finishing some things up with the school year at East Grand Forks. But after he gave it some time, thought about it and discussed things with his wife, he decided he did indeed want the position.

“If I was ever going to try to get to that level as far as the coaching profession, this was probably going to be my last shot at it,” Scanlan said. “With that in mind we went after it.”

Scanlan still has a plethora of connections at Bemidji State. He and his fellow Beavers hockey alumnae remain close, and he would often visit the university to watch his daughter’s soccer games. Scanlan and his wife were even men’s hockey season ticket holders at one point.

“He’ll represent BSU with extreme integrity,” Bemidji State athletic director Tracy Dill said at Scanlan’s introductory press conference. “He cares deeply about student-athletes, and most importantly has immense pride and passion for BSU.”

Scanlan takes over a program that went 11-21-4 last season under former coach Steve Sertich, who retired this spring after eight years at the post.

Scanlan believes he’s taking over a program that’s in “a pretty good spot.”

“I think coach Serich is definitely leaving the program in a better place than it was in when he started,” Scanlan said.

He said if he can do the same during his tenure, he’d feel good about the job he did.

Scanlan hopes to prepare his student-athletes for life after college, while being competitive on a nightly-basis in the ultra-competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which includes perennial powerhouse Minnesota.

“I guess you can measure success in different ways,” Scanlan said, “but if we can grow as players and as people and the program keeps getting better, then to me that’s being successful.”

Scanlan still has plenty of family in Cottage Grove. His mother Rosemary Scanlan and sisters Loretta Scanlan, Katie Woolery and Patti Russoniello all still live in town. Scanlan said he tries to get back to the area “as often as possible.”

The Bemidji Pioneer contributed to this report.