In the blood: Moser and Morse each coaching his child this seasonPark hockey coaches Jay Moser and Steve Morse each shared the job of coach and dad this past winter.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Along with their last names being anagrams, Jay Moser and Steve Morse have a lot in common. Both are Park High School graduates, they live in Cottage Grove, they coach hockey at their alma mater and each has a child on his team.
Moser’s son Nick plays varsity for the Park boys hockey team and Morse’s daughter Allie is the Wolfpack’s starting goalie. Each man said the fact that his child was in the program had nothing to do with why they were driven to coach hockey at Park. However, each said they’d likely look back on the experience fondly.
“Jay and I spend a lot of time together around the rink. But, we talk more about hockey in general and how to coach more than talking about our own kids,” Steve Morse said. “With Allie, there’s times I know when she’s having a tough day or that kind of thing, but honestly, she has been just another player in my eyes. Whenever I’m talking to the team I never think about her as my daughter.”
Jay Moser is in his fifth year as head coach of the Park boys hockey team. He said knowing Nick would probably play for Park gave him “trepidation” when he was thinking about becoming the head coach.
“He can be a difficult kid and I can be a difficult dad. I wasn’t sure how the whole coaching dynamic was going to work,” Moser said. “I thought about it, but it wasn’t part of my decision making.”
Moser admitted he may be harder on Nick than other players.
“It can be tricky,” he said. “My assistant coaches are great about it. I’ll usually let them make the decisions about his role, so I can remove myself to be fair to him. But, it’s worked out pretty well. No major issues.”
As a player for Park, Jay Moser was part of the best team in school history. As a senior in 1991, he helped lead Park to a 21-2 overall record and a No. 1 spot in the state rankings heading into the playoffs, before falling to the eventual state champion, Hill-Murray, in the Section 3 semifinals. After Park, Moser went on to play hockey for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Nick Moser, a junior defenseman and forward, is playing his first season of full-time varsity hockey after splitting time between the varsity and junior varsity last year. He’s played in 22 games and is ninth on the Wolfpack in scoring with eight points. He had a breakout game in a 6-4 win over Hastings at the end of January with two goals and an assist.
Nick said having his dad as coach “definitely has some flaws and some perks.”
“Sometimes it can get personal,” he said. “But, it’s nice that he can coach me and we can go over things at home. It’s more of a benefit I think, but it can get a little difficult. He wants me to be better, because I’m his kid. He just wants me to succeed.”
The fact his dad was a standout player, helps give Jay credit in Nick’s eyes, too, he said.
“He was a really good player. That’s probably why I listen to him,” Nick Moser said. “He knows what he’s talking about. He’s basically never wrong.”
Jay coached Nick at the mite, squirt and peewee levels. Nick said the best part is celebrating the big wins together.
“It’s special. Not many kids can say they have their dad as their coach,” he said.
Jay Moser said things can get heated, and there have almost been some blowouts, but said their relationship as father and son and coach and player has been good.
“I’m sure at the moment Nick thinks it’s the worst thing in the world,” Jay Moser said. “I can probably appreciate it more than he can right now. But, I hope down the road he’ll learn to appreciate it.”
The Park boys hockey team is having a solid season this year. The Wolfpack is 11-9-4 overall and is 5-9-3 in the Suburban East Conference, including big wins over rivals Woodbury and East Ridge.
“It’s been one of our most successful years of late,” Nick Moser said. “We have a lot more depth this year. We have more players that work harder, have more heart and more skilled players.”
Steve Morse also played hockey at Park and was a 1981 graduate. This year was his second as head coach of the Park girls team after being an assistant coach for the Wolfpack for four years. Like Jay Moser, Morse also has a long history of playing and coaching hockey in Cottage Grove. Morse’s first hockey coaching job was 23 years ago with the Cottage Grove “A” Pee-Wees. He’s been one of Allie’s coaches since she was 8 years-old.
“There weren’t as many issues as you might think,” Steve Morse said. “The big thing is that she’s a goalie. The forwards and defensemen come to the bench after each shift and we’re talking to them constantly throughout the game, but Allie doesn’t come to the bench at all.”
Park also has a goalie coach in Mike Moline – who has worked with Allie for years.
“We’re fortunate to have a full-time goalie coach like Mike, so I didn’t have much to do with it to be honest,” Steve Morse said. “And Allie did a great job of not putting me in a tough place. She didn’t want any special treatment. She helped it go really well.”
Allie said, like many teenagers, she may question her dad at home, but never questioned him as the coach on the ice.
“At home I’m just like any other kid and may think I don’t really want to do what he says, but at the rink I have to do what he tells me, be a leader and do what everyone has to do,” Allie said. “There’s no questioning anything.”
Allie has played for the Park varsity team since eighth grade and has been entrenched as the Wolfpack’s starting goalie since her freshman year. This season she was one of 10 semifinalists for the 2012 Let’s Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year Award, presented to the top senior girls high school hockey goaltender in Minnesota. On the year, Morse was 10-9-1 with a 2.48 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and one shutout. Allie was a team captain this year and said the fact her dad was coach didn’t cause issues with the other players on the team.
“Obviously the girls know that he’s my dad, but they also know that they can talk to me as a friend about anything and I’m not going to go and tell my dad,” she said. “I don’t talk to my dad about things we talk about as teammates.”
Allie also said she never felt like she should be starting when she was on the bench in favor of junior goalie Caitlin Tate.
“Tater needs experience, because it’s all her next year,” Allie said. “I know a lot of goalies wouldn’t be that way, but I was fine with whatever games she got to play.”
Steve Morse admitted splitting playing time was one of “the more difficult things.”
“Allie was certainly the starter before I took the job. But, at the same time I wanted to make sure I was being fair to everyone,” he said. “That’s always in the back of my mind. I’ve always put in a lot of effort to do the right thing.”
The Park girls team’s season came to an end on Saturday, Feb. 11, with a 3-2 loss to Apple Valley in the Section 3AA semifinals. Allie will play college hockey somewhere next year, but is currently undecided on where.
“It really hasn’t hit me that I’m done playing hockey at Park yet,” she said. “Once it hits me that I’m done it’ll be tough. It’ll be weird next year not playing for my dad, because he’s been there for as long as I can remember.”