The Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association inducted its newest members into its Hall of Fame during the 2011 state tournament week and, for Rochester John Marshall's Bob Frerker, it is an honor bestowed upon him that left him staggered.
"It brought me to my knees when they told me,” said Frerker, who played for the University of Wisconsin and parlayed that into a coaching career that began in Roseau and concluded in Rochester. “It is your colleagues that are voting you in on this. I am just really humbled by the fact that I am representing all these coaches that not only helped me but all these players that made a difference in the game. I am very humbled that I am bestowed this great honor. I think it is fantastic. I was shocked that this was really happening. I am still in disbelief."
A true inventor, Frerker is known as a tireless innovator whose teams could play multiple ways and adapt to their opponents. Frerker, a goaltender, developed one of the first goalie camps in Minnesota, which was duplicated by many. His passion and desire to share that with players impacted the game in ways that are immeasurable.
Frerker grew up in Madison, Wis., and played for LaFolette High School. His teams went to three straight state championships while he was there tending goal. His clubs did not win a title. However, he was able to move on and play his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin for "Badger" Bob Johnson through his final year in 1973.
Frerker and Badger Bob would develop a relationship that grew through Frerker's coaching career.
"I wanted to play (in college) and Bob Johnson had a great influence on me," Frerker said. "I did play for Bob. I actually started in Superior, Wisconsin, then transferred down and played for Bob Johnson for two years. We had good team. We won the national championship in the NCAA in 1973 and I was involved with that. I didn't make the (playoff) team, you are on it the whole year and they have to pick a tournament team and I wasn't on that team."
After getting married following college, Frerker and his wife, Barb, ended up moving to Roseau, Minn., where he had his first coaching job as a the goalie coach and assistant coach at Roseau High School.
While working with Johnson, Dave Peterson and Ken Johansson in Colorado Springs with USA Hockey,His first head coaching job came at Rochester Lourdes High School.
After working in Roseau, Frerker moved to Rochester at the urging of Johansson who helped him find a teaching and coaching position. Frerker was the head coach at Lourdes from the 1975-76 season through the 1981-82 season when he resigned.
He eventually became the head coach for the Rochester John Marshall Rockets in 1985 following the retirement of Gene Sack. Frerker guided his John Marshall teams to five section finals in seven years and also appeared in back-to-back state tournaments in 1988 and 1989, capturing the 1989 state championship.
Retiring in 1992 after seven seasons at the helm, Frerker carried a passion for the game and was a teacher in every way.
He credits his players, family, and assistant coaches for his success as he points to the caliber of players he had.
"They are fantastic people. I was really blessed to have that and along with that, you need support and I have had some fantastic people,” Frerker said. “I definitely had that with my family. We all enjoyed hockey and are a hockey family."
When referring to the number of high-level players he coached, Frerker beamed and said, "We had a great run and, looking back at all the great players I had, I have just really been fortunate. I am dead serious. There are not too many guys that can say they have had the Neal Brotens, the Bergraffs, the Hedlunds, Erickson, Zmolek, and Podein."
He won the John Mariucci Award as the coach of the year award with his 1989 team yet Frerker quickly deflected any praise and gave credit to his team and assistant coaches.
“I did get awards as I coached and that was because of the teams I had," he said. “I did get coach of the year, the year that we won in ‘89, but it was because we had a great team. I give my credit to my assistant coaches. I try to hand pick those guys and we had a forward, a goaltender, and a 'd' coach. We all worked together to build the team."
Frerker is a student of the game and prides himself in sharing his passion, love and energy of the game. Much of that was fostered in his early relationships that included Peterson, Johnson, Roseau's Terry Abram, Johansson and Herb Brooks among others.
A visionary, he began instructing goalies during the season in the mornings while in Roseau. Frerker ventured to Fergus Falls and tutored goalies in Grand Forks where they set up and executed stations.
When discussing his career, Frerker is always quick to credit those around him for his success. “I am really fortunate to have known these people,” Freker noted. “They were fantastic and even Herb Brooks came down with (Warren) Strehlow. We met after they were looking at (Eric) Strobel. I had one of the first goalie camps in the state.
“We sat down at the Ground Round and I talked to them before the Olympic team and Herb asked what I do with the goalies and I spilled the beans. Strehlow picked it up and ran with it. The next year, or that summer, they started goalie schools and I had been doing it for five years. That was in the 70's and I had goalies schools running all the way through.”
For Frerker, it all began in the net.
“Goaltending is a passion of mine,” he admitted. “I look at goalies, I study them, I like to see how you could actually help somebody. “It's not about how I want you to play, but how you can help that player or particular individual. I have a passion for other goalies and listen to them.”
His innovative thinking goes beyond the goal crease. Frerker and his staff began to scout heavily in the Southeastern Minnesota area as his teams would prepare for their upcoming games. The Rocket staff would put in multiple looks for his team and the players were able to adjust.
Frerker explained his team's approach. “We were going with what we called an absolute where you could go to the 1-2-2, and then we would get the forced forecheck, or we would do the 2-1-2. Then, we would go wherever the puck was we would have two guys on and one guy in the middle. It was like a 2-1-2 but like an exaggerated forced forecheck, that's what we called it.
“We were throwing it at these other teams and they could not adapt to it. They really couldn't turn the corner on it.”
That is not for the faint of heart as he was able to execute different styles from his teams on different evenings depending upon who they were playing.
Beyond his creative thinking and the X's and O's, Frerker shared his love of the game with his teams.
“If you are going to coach, and maybe that is why it keeps me out of it a little bit, you have to dedicate yourself 100 percent,” Frerker said. “You have got to bring fun. Come out with excitement. That is what I love to do. Light a fire under them and say, ‘Hey you know this is fantastic! I am still playing and you can do this the rest of your life.’
“If you make it, the Olympics, or college, it is a bonus to make it beyond high school and play anywhere. I was always an advocate of being a student of the game and my players being a student of the game. I made sure we all got it down and played together and within the system.”
He liked players that possessed the burning desire to play the game. In his own words, Frerker was succinct in what players need to move to the next level.
“The kind of player I liked was one that had the burn of desire to play, not only with passion but to make it to that next level they want to do it and they won’t take no for an answer and they want to be in the position to do it. The beauty of it is that you really help a lot of good people out there.”
Frerker more than helped a lot of good people out there. He helped change the game and how it was coached from the crease out and influence a large number of players that are now passing his passion on to young players in the hockey world.
He still coaches youth teams and is tutoring young goalies and players as they come into his sporting goods store, Shoot and Save in Rochester.