“Hockey is more than just a game. It’s a passion, a dedication. It draws you in and never lets go. Hockey is love, hockey is life. Hockey lives in our hearts.” ~ Author Unknown

The old saying that “hockey is not just a game, it's a way of life” rings true for longtime local coach Richard Bartholdi. His mother was a hockey player in Duluth in the 1920s. He was a high school boys coach from 1967 until 1997 when he decided to take on the challenge of building a solid girls program, because his daughter, Brigitte, and a few of her friends wanted their own team instead of playing on the boys team.

The girls U-12 team went to state in their first year and the coach brought the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls high school team to state tournament five years out of 10.

Known around the arena as Coach Bart, he is a devoted and passionate girls hockey coach.

The 71-year-old has coached U-12, U-14 and high school girls hockey and is coaching the U-10 Cloquet team this season. Having a coach with so many years of experience helps provide a solid skill foundation when the girls reach high school level.

Coach Bart was recognized for his accomplishments this fall and inducted into the Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Association (MGHCA) 2015 Hall of Fame.

“They make a list and check it twice,” Coach Bart said with his quirky sense of humor, “and look to see who is still alive.”

Coming full circle, Coach Bart coached U-12s for several years after he left the girls high school team in 2010 and led the small team to state again in 2013.

“My dad (Dave) picked him up and spun him around after we won a 3-4 overtime game (to go to state against Hibbing),” said Keagen Anderson, now a freshman on the high school team.

After taking a year off, he is back this season coaching girls U-10s.

“They are different to coach than the others, they never hold still,” Coach Bart said with a laugh.

He also said coaching the younger girls is a benefit because they are a blank slate and fast learners.

“I really enjoy being with the kids, they are so interesting,” Coach Bart said. “They give us hope for the future.”

One of his former U-12 girls, Kelly Lorenz, is now a freshman on the high school team. She started in figure skating at a young age and recently received a student coaching certificate so she could help teach the U-10 girls how to skate.

“She knows more about the pure skill of skating than I do,” Coach Bart said. “I was watching her teach the other day and thought, ‘I never knew that.’ There you go - I am learning things I never knew about skating before from a ninth-grade girl.”

When the team is at a tournament, Coach Bart can usually be found sitting in the stands watching other teams play. He takes a notebook or cards to take notes on a new play or drill for his team to use in the future.

Coach Bart was a teacher at Cloquet High School for many years; the last class he taught was current events.

He gives former Coach Bill Kennedy credit as his biggest influence when Coach Bart was assisting with the boys high school hockey team.

“Hockey is more like life than life itself,” Coach Bart said, “It’s compressed into a smaller unit, but there are happy times, sad times and times you feel like you’re not being treated fairly.”

Throughout the years of building a successful girls program, Coach Bart was rarely surprised. He watched Hibbing and Duluth teams play and thought he could build a team that would be able to compete, and he was right. The fledgling team beat Duluth 5-3 in the first preseason game. Coach Bart said he was mildly surprised because his team was made up of seventh- and eighth-graders, while the other team had varsity players. The new team held their own and went to the state tournament that year.

“We had really good goaltending all of the way up. If you have good goaltending you can hang in there against almost anybody,” he said. “It’s the most important position.”

Coach Bart has no intentions of retiring any time soon.

“I could stay home and garden or cross country ski, which are fine activities, but seem like a waste of my experience that I have gained in all of these years,” Coach Bart said. “Why would I sit around playing cribbage with some other old guys when I can be here and involved with young people?”

He hastily added he does enjoy a good game of cribbage.

“I am in really good health and I have a certain body of knowledge most people don't have. It’s kind of a dumb thing to be an expert in, I mean, I'm not saving lives or anything,” Coach Bart said. “I am coaching young people in the game of hockey.”

Coach Bart ends every practice with a joke.

He shares a joke he told his team after practice before Christmas.

Where does Santa put his suit after his long night?

In his clauset.