retires after 10 state titles
By Zachary Dzurick
Published March 23, 2005
As he left Mass
Sunday morning the week before this year's state championship tournaments,
legendary St. Edward hockey coach Bob Whidden shared a secret with
his son and assistant coach Rob Whidden that previously only Bob's
wife, Irma, knew.
"This is it,"
the elder told his son.
told his players it was his last game. He didn't resort to a "win
one for the Gipper" speech. It has always been about the "boys"
for Whidden. The score was still tied heading into the third period.
But his team, as they have so many times before, found a way to
win the third period and Whidden's 10th state title. His career
ended as it had started -- with a state title.
kept his secret until the morning of March 16. He told the team
in the morning before the afternoon press conference. It had been
announced at the state tournament that the game was Whidden's 505th
career win. Whidden is such a good coach that by the press conference,
he picked up two more wins. Officially his career record after 21
years was 507-149-28. His teams appeared at 16 state championship
tournaments. Along with the 10 titles, Whidden's teams were runner-ups
three times and won seven Baron Cups.
"It was a good
way to go," Whidden said.
every team has been special, but a few teams stand out from the
rest. Topping the list were the titles won when his sons were playing
"The 1990 team
that my son Jarret played on probably was pound for pound the best
team we had. They were ranked fourth in the nation that year," Whidden
said. "The 1994 state championship team with my son Tyler was special,
too. The 1988 team with Robbie was really good, but unfortunately
we lost to Padua. Those are the ones I remember because of the boys."
winning the state title team his first year as coach stands out
year was special," Whidden said. "We took over a program that was
very good that had some great players. We were able to bring in
some seniors who were at Ed's but didn't play for Ed's before then.
We were able to get them to play and they gave some senior leadership."
Adding to the
emotions of winning a first ever title, Whidden had to go head to
head with a friend and players he knew very well.
"I lived in
North Olmsted and had coached so many of the kids from North Olmsted.
I had coached both goalies. Ronnie Ward was the coach at North Olmsted
and we had been teammates. We win by one goal and they miss an open
net with about minute and half to go,
game, Wardie has to go to the airport because he is going on a golf
trip. I took him to the airport. I beat him and he is going golfing
and I am stuck in Cleveland. So I decided then if it happened again,
I am going to go away for a couple of days too."
a tradition of heading to Florida for a few days after the season.
Whidden is making the move permanently. His wife has found a new
job in Tampa.
"Irma is starting
her new position April 4," Whidden said. "I have to stay behind
and do the hard work, pack up the house and sell it. The last two
or three years we have been looking at it. We had to go down on
my wife's ticket. She is the professional in the family. I would
not have been able to do down there what I do up here."
Whidden was also the director of ice operations at the Metroplex
in Warrensville Heights.
While he will
miss the game, there are aspects that Whidden will be happy to avoid.
on a Wednesday morning in January and not have to go to hockey practice
at 6:30 a.m. and then going outside and the sun will be shining,"
Whidden said. "I am looking forward to that."
a long-time legendary coach himself in wrestling, was the athletic
director who brought Whidden into the St. Edward family.
"I saw Fergie
in the wrestling room," Whidden said. "He was one of the greatest
motivators I have ever seen. I said I have to be a part of this.
It was tremendous."
known for being tough on his players. For Whidden, he said it is
developing young men for more than just hockey but for the real
world. He admits that it is the "boys" that he will miss the most.
"Some of these
kids are going to be bosses one day," You have to learn how to pull
it together. You need to have good assistants and I have. You have
to have good people around you. I have been very fortunate, and
it was one of the reasons I stayed here so long because of the support
I have had from the school."
He is pleased
that so many former players have stayed in the game to coach at
"It is nice
to see them around the rinks," Whidden said. "It is rewarding."
that the players haven't changed much in the last two decades. Rather
there are just more distractions.
keep us going," Whidden said. "They are no different, but now they
have more distractions. When we started, maybe four guys had cars.
Now everyone had their own cars. I used to have to pack the trunk
with bags to get them to practice. We had bags hanging out the windows.
Now they all have cars and they have cell phones and the damn Internet.
I can't email. I still write everything out."
So while coach
hasn't quite embraced the technological age, he leaves a game he
has been a part of for over 50 years still at the top of the game.
Born in Sudbury, Ontario, he rose through the ranks of junior hockey
as a goalie. He began his professional career in 1965 for the Toronto
Marlboros of the OHA. He played four years with the Cleveland Crusaders
in the WHA from 1972-1976. The night before his final state championship,
Whidden drove back to Cleveland to be inducted into the Cleveland
Barons ring of honor for his impact on hockey in the Cleveland area
including his role to get the Lumberjacks to relocate to Cleveland.
"It has been
a lot of fun," he said. "I will miss it."