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Cottage Grove native Jim Scanlan creating a powerhouse at East Grand Forks

Cottage Grove native Jim Scanlan, the activities director and head girls hockey coach at East Grand Forks High School, leads a short practice prior to the 2014 state tournament. The East Grand Forks girls finished second at state and the boys team won the state championship this past week. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

Jim Scanlan now has a championship from two of hockey’s biggest stages.

Scanlan, a Cottage Grove native, serves as the activities director for East Grand Forks High School, which won the Class A boys hockey championship on Saturday, March 8. He also has two national championships with the University of North Dakota when he served as an assistant under Dean Blais and Gino Gasparini for seven years.

“It was a tremendous experience,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan brought that winning experience across the river from UND in Grand Forks to the east side with an East Grand Forks program that had never won Minnesota hockey’s biggest prize. He originally made the move for family, and the East Grand Forks community is glad he did.

“I had a real young family at the time,” Scanlan said. “One was 6, and we had a 4 year-old and 1-year-old. That certainly played a big part in it.”

Scanlan took over the boys hockey program at East Grand Forks as coach and led the Green Wave to four state tournament appearances. He successfully made the transition of motivating Division I collegiate and NHL-bound players to motivating high school student athletes.

“You set high expectations and you hold kids accountable,” Scanlan said. “We are fortunate that the kids bought into it pretty quick when I first started there. That certainly helped, and once you start having success, it makes it a lot easier.”

Under Scanlan, the Green Wave went to state four times in his first six years at the helm. When he moved to the activities director role, he brought in a former player he coached, Tyler Palmiscno, as the new head coach.

“Tyler Plamiscno and Scott Oliver have done a great job of leading the program,” Scanlan said.

An East Grand Forks native, Palmiscno coached the Green Wave to a 28-2-1 record this season and the program’s first state title in dominating fashion. The Green Wave outscored their opponents 14-5 for the tournament, and they handed Hermantown their fifth-straight title game loss.

“It’s a tribute to them [the players] and their coaches,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan has also coached the girls varsity team in addition to his athletic director duties since 2008. He led the Green Wave to their first state tournament appearance Feb. 19-22 with a runner-up finish.

“To see that euphoria on their faces is something I’ll never forget,” Scanlan said about the team earning a trip to state.

Sending both the boys and girls team to state doesn’t happen a lot. Only East Grand Forks and Hermantown made the feat for the Class A tournaments this year.

“To have both teams in the state tournament is pretty remarkable,” Scanlan said.

The girls program grew in participation under Scanlan. Many players take part in other teams outside of the season.

“We’re starting to see improvement in the game all the way around,” Scanlan said. “I give all the credit to the guys who started the program with girls that show up who had never played before.”

His achievements with hockey run back to his roots in Cottage Grove. He played at Park High School under coach Marv Jorde, a former Team USA hockey player. Park reached the semifinals in Scanlan’s senior year when they lost to North St. Paul.

Scanlan also played for Skip Peltier in his Cottage Grove days. Scanlan reconnected with Peltier after taking the coaching job at East Grand Forks since Peltier works at the Minnesota State High School League.

“He was a big help,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan credits his neighbor, John Mausolf, for getting him into the game of hockey when he was growing up. Coming from a family of 11 children with only one family car, it was a challenge for Scanlan to get involved in the sport.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to play the game if it wasn’t for him,” Scanlan said.

He played hockey with Mausolf’s sons Gary and Craig. Mausolf would help with rides to the rink and getting equipment.

“Maus would take me wherever, all over the place,” Scanlan said. “He’d help get me jobs to pay for whatever [hockey equipment needed].”

Scanlan also played hockey with Mike Jorde, Scott Tiffany, Pat Rice and Joe Koyama growing up. Scanlan’s mother, Rosemary, still lives in the same home where he grew up in Cottage Grove. Three of his sisters also still live in Cottage Grove.

Scanlan went on from Park to play collegiate hockey at Bemidji State University under Bob Peter and won national titles in 1979 and 1980. Scanlan also took an interest in coaching after playing for the legendary Beavers coach.

“He’s just produced a lot of guys that have gone into coaching,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan pursued a pro career and had a free agent tryout with the Buffalo Sabers but didn’t make the team. He also played in the minor leagues for a time. When it didn’t lead to a career in the NHL, he pursued what has become his lifelong achievement with the game – coaching. He first went to Northern Michigan to take on an graduate assistant coaching role and stayed for a year. Scanlan then took an assistant coaching position at Western Michigan for four years. Then, he was on to UND where he learned from two of college hockey’s most successful coaches in Blais and Gasparini. North Dakota won national titles in 1997 and 2000 during his time there.

Scanlan also credits fellow assistant coach Craig Perry, Rich Comley, Cary Eades and Scott Sandelin for a great influence.

“You just take something from every one of them,” Scanlan said. “There is no question, the experiences I had with those guys certainly helped.”

He transferred his vision to the high school level at East Grand Forks. For many years, the Green Wave program stood in the shadows of northwestern hockey powers such as Warroad. Four trips to the state tournament shifted that. The youth program also grew during Scanlan’s tenure and has continued to grow under Palmiscno.

“We wanted to be a program that challenges for section championships year in and year out,” Scanlan said. “It was my goal, and it was what we wanted to do right from the get-go.”

As a whole, the East Grand Forks athletic program has flourished outside of hockey. The boys basketball team will compete at this week’s state tournament.

“This class of 2014 has some outstanding athletes and some outstanding leaders,” Scanlan said. “It’s just a tribute to the community and the parents of these kids.

“It’s something we’ve never seen before,” Scanlan added.