New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh led Cretin-Derham Hall to its only state championship as a junior. Photo by David Brewster, Star Tribune
Coach Mal Scanlan was getting ready to send his Cretin-Derham Hall football team into the state large-school title game against Blaine on Thanksgiving weekend in 1988.
Scanlan was excited for the challenge (a controversial 25-24 loss for the Raiders), and for the future of Cretin-Derham Hall athletics.
“One of the McQuillan girls [Sheila] married Dennis Czech, who was a terrific running back for us,” Scanlan said. “… We’re [CDH athletics] hoping for a big family.”
The McQuillans had been providing students and athletes to Cretin (and then CDH) since 1891. The Czechs would have five children and remained loyal to the Raiders.
There’s a bond among families and faculty and students at this high school on St. Paul’s Hamline Avenue that has to be as strong as anywhere in Minnesota.
It would be an exaggeration to say that CDH graduates always wind up marrying other CDH graduates. Heck, I know personally at half-dozen where that’s not the case.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer seemed to be straying from his CDH roots in the middle of the previous decade. There were reports of dates with young ladies such as Chelsea Cooley, the 2005 Miss USA from North Carolina.
Of course, when it came time for true love, Joe found himself on a knee asking for the hand of Maddie Bisanz, a former captain of the CDH swimming team. They were married after last season and will soon be the parents of twins.
Whatever the combination of boys and girls, the twins will have varsity jerseys waiting for them at CDH for the fall of 2028.
Ryan McDonagh is another honored athlete from Cretin-Derham Hall. He was a star as a junior defenseman in 2006 for what remains CDH’s lone state hockey champion.
The hockey people with an eye toward McDonagh as a high draft choice lobbied for him to spend the winter of 2006-07 in junior hockey. He passed and stayed at Cretin-Derham Hall.
“It was a big family decision,” McDonagh said. “My two uncles had such great senior seasons at Cretin. It worked out well. I was able to be on a state champion baseball team as a senior.”
The uncles to whom McDonagh referred were Steve and Chris Walsh. His mother, Patricia, is an older sister to those quarterbacks of considerable note.
Staying in high school didn’t impact McDonagh’s NHL draft status: He taken No. 12 overall by Montreal in June 2007. He played three seasons at Wisconsin, finishing with the Badgers’ loss to Boston College in the 2010 NCAA title game.
By then, McDonagh’s rights belonged to the Rangers. He was a prime part of a 2009 trade that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal. McDonagh signed in July 2010 and was with the Rangers by January.
New York now has made him a big part of its future. It was announced Monday that the 24-year-old had agreed to a six-year, $28.2 million extension.
McDonagh’s name was visible in the Twin Cities for reasons other than the new contract last week.
The Wild signed forward Matt Cooke. His alleged reform from being a cheap-shot artist was traced to an elbow delivered to McDonagh’s head for Pittsburgh against the Rangers on March 20, 2011.
Cooke received a lengthy suspension. Two years later, the legend was McDonagh suffered a concussion.
“No, Cooke’s elbow got me more in the jaw than the head,” McDonagh said. “We were fighting for the playoffs, and I didn’t miss any games.
“He e-mailed me to apologize. That was it. We’ve played a lot of hockey against each other since then. He’s a good player. He’ll have a big role in Minnesota.”
We had a phone conversation last week as McDonagh was on his way to a Twin Cities rink for a morning skate. We talked about several issues and then I went to the trump card for a Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus:
Question: Do you have a fiancé or girlfriend?
McDonagh: Yes. In fact, we’re getting married next Friday.
Question: Cretin-Derham girl?
McDonagh: Yes. Kaylee Keys. She played hockey for Bemidji State for a year, then came back to St. Paul and played three years for St. Thomas.
OK, readers: I hate to say this, but I told you so.