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Remembering Mr. King

On Oct. 25, the Wadena Hockey Association suffered a huge loss when Scott King, 49, of Wadena, had a heart attack and died while working with his construction business.

King's sudden passing has left a hole in the varsity girls' hockey program, which was scheduled to start practice Monday. King was the coach of the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Wadena-Deer Creek Blue Devils and was responsible for last year's turnaround that saw the team accomplish many firsts as a team, including a first-round playoff victory over Little Falls.

King also played a critical role in the running of the Wadena Hockey association for several years. Besides being the girls varsity coach, he was also the game scheduler, rink manager, Zamboni driver, board member and advertising recruiter. At the time of his death, King was in the process of constructing the new press box at the hockey arena.

"The arena will not be the same without him, with his cup of coffee, milling about doing many jobs that we just took for granted," said Patty Berg, a hockey parent.

Wadena Hockey Association President Loren Meyer said King was a jack-of-all-trades, taking on the many projects that no one else wanted to do within the association as well as being a mentor and coach to the many kids who came through the association.

"I am forever recalling all of the conversations we have had over the years, coaching situations we have shared and projects we have worked together on," Meyer said. "He left a lot of shoes to be filled and all of us have to step up and make sure the association continues to run as smoothly. He would expect no less, and would insist that the kids and the game of hockey come first."

King was born in 1956 in St. Paul and was the third of five children. He got involved in hockey at an early age and spent nearly 28 years pursuing his lifelong passion and devotion for the sport as either a player or coach.

Brad King, Scott's younger brother, fondly recalled the many times they spent skating on the creek in front of their childhood home and on the homemade rink that Scott had made in the family's back yard.

"It wasn't anything fancy, he just took a hose and froze over the ground to make that rink," he said. "We had a lot of fun playing on it and honing our skills."

They also played hockey on the street and wouldn't move off the roadway until all their neighborhood friends' dads started arriving home around 5 p.m. from work, he added. Scott was the goalie.

When King was a second year Pee-Wee, he put aside his goalie pads and "skated out," joining his brothers on the line. During a game in Janesville, Wis., all three brothers played on the same line for the first and only time during their youth hockey careers. Scott was the right wing, with Brad playing the left side and big brother Jeff playing in the middle.

"That was a very special moment for our family, even more special was the fact we (brothers) all grew up playing on defense." Brad said.

King's father also played on influential part of his life, always involved in coaching and helping kids have fun.

In 1972, King was recruited by Hill-Murray hockey coach Andre Beaulieu to play for the Pioneers. Back then, it wasn't against the rules, since Hill-Murray was a private school and was separate from the high school league with their own tournament.

King never took up Beaulieu on his offer; instead he chose to stay loyal with his ties to North St. Paul and finished out his high school career with the Polars.

"When we were growing up, Hill-Murray was and to this day, the biggest rival of the Polars in hockey," Brad said.

Beaulieu went on to coach the Minnesota North Stars.

After graduating in 1976, King became a wanderer, traveling as far north as to Bemidji and south to Tracy. He got married to Shari and had five children. The family settled in Hutchinson, and Scott got involved in the hockey association when his sons took up the game.

Regardless of what sport his children played, he took the time to work with them to develop their skills said his daughter Melissa Smith.

"I remember when I played volleyball, he would make me spend hours spiking and practice my serving," she said. "There would be times when I didn't want to do it, but he made me because he was the type of father that wanted his kids to work hard and to succeed."

After spending 10 years in Hutchinson, King and his wife divorced and he moved to Wadena in 1998.

King started out coaching and then got more and more involved with the association. At the time of his death, King had multiple responsibilities, but he never complained because, according to many people that worked with him within the association, it was for the kids.

"Scott believed that every child should be able to play hockey regardless of family income, their home life and social standing," said Rhonda McManigle, a hockey mother and the association registrar. "He loved the kids and was very instrumental in instilling the love of hockey into them. Any new player that came out -- regardless of what level they played -- excited him and he took the time to welcome them with open arms."

Blue Devil newcomer and St. Cloud transplant Cassie Behl attested to the powerful influence King had on people during the two short weeks she got to know him. Behl said her coach in St. Cloud barely recognized or acknowledged her, but King was different.

"He actually took the time to get to know me and showed me an extreme amount of respect," she said. "In the short amount of time I knew him, he was one of the best coaches I have ever had in my entire life."

In February 2006, King coached his 1,000th game, but didn't want the attention focused on him. That didn't surprise the people who knew him.

"Scott was a coach and a person who would rather tell you about the accomplishment of someone else rather than himself," said Meyer

Under King's first year at the helm, the Blue Devils turned in a respectable 14-10-1 record and advanced to the quarterfinals of Section 2A playoffs with their first playoff victory in school history. They also were the Windom Tournament champions and took the consolation championship in the Yellow Division of the Schwan's Cup Tournament in Blaine during the regular season.

Blue Devil alumnus Amanda McManigle said that King had the Blue Devils going in the right direction and could only garner a good guess what could have been if he had coached for a few more years.

"It's funny, I was just thinking about 'what if' the other day," McManigle said. "I truly believe that if he had coached us three years earlier, we would have been unstoppable during my senior year because we would have mastered his philosophy."

She said one lesson that King taught her the most was that she didn't need the captain's "C" sewn on her jersey to be a leader. It was a lesson she took to heart. King eventually gave in and presented her the captain badge -- at the Blue Devils' end-of-the-year banquet.

"I finally got it," she laughed.

In just the eight years King has been with the association, he earned the respect of everyone he touched in this lifetime, and that will be his true legacy, according to Meyer.

"When you ask kids how are they doing and mean it, you are giving them respect," Meyer said. "When you tell kids that they all are an important part of a team and mean it, you are giving them respect. When you ask the advice of an assistant coach that never played the game, you gave him respect. That is what I will miss most about Scott, is his ability to give respect to everyone."

In the Wadena Hockey Association, hundreds of kids and their families will never forget King, the guy with a white afro and twinkle in his eyes that brought the true meaning of playing hockey for the sheer joy of it.

"We truly lost the heart and soul of our organization," said Rhonda McManigle.