Ken Pauly is hardly a stranger to the boys’ hockey state tournament. But in years like this, watching games at Xcel Energy Center in March is more like running into an old nemesis than greeting a dear friend.
“It hurts,” the Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach said Saturday.
However, he also noted that being in St. Paul all week brings perspective, and he encouraged all head coaches to be part of the pageantry.
“As big of a deal as you think you are, the truth is you’re just one of a lot of people around here,” Pauly said. “You do think you’re a big deal when you’re in it, but you also realize you’re not as big of a loser as you think you are when you’re out of it.”
As vice president of the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association, Pauly had administrative duties at the X this week. He caught a lot of hockey, too, but by Saturday evening he had planned to return home to catch the Class 2A final on television.
It wasn’t easy.
“[Saturday] is usually the day I can finally move on” from a section tournament loss, Pauly said. “Friday is the best day of the tournament, and clearly the day you really want to be [there]. After that, let’s face it, there are only two teams left. And, listen pal, get over yourself and enjoy it. Soon, the weather will break and the Twins will be playing.”
In his veteran coaching career, Pauly has taken four teams to state: three from Benilde-St. Margaret’s and one with Minnetonka.
The feeling of earning a trip there never gets old, but he stops by anyway.
“All coaches should be down here,” he said. “It’s good therapy, and your responsibility to support the tournament and the game. This tournament is bigger than each and every coach and program.”