Navarre, Homestead icemen still winners despite sectional final loss
Coach reflects on team, personal journey
An underdog Homestead hockey squad (12-15-1), led by the ultimate underdog himself, coach and well-known area cancer-survivor Tony Navarre, pulled one upset after another until top seed Fond du Lac (22-3-2) finally stopped them, 6-4, in a sectional final last Friday.
For Navarre, the play of his team down the stretch was some of the best medicine he could have received. His e-mail to that effect follows verbatim.
"The tournament run was first and foremost so much fun for the boys and I," he said. "We knew what we were capable of and playing well through the playoffs validated the hard work and effort they put in.
"It is so important for the program because we have a strong team returning, and now they know what it takes to be successful. We lose only one defenseman to graduation and we keep our primary goalie. Losing a player like (Thomas) Fazio is always hard, but we have players that want to work hard to step into a varsity role.
"As for the health stuff, it was a little surreal, Molly Navarre (his wife) even brought it up where I was two or three years prior.
"For instance, (she said) 'Can you believe you were having your third lung surgery two years ago today?' She even looked back at the Caringbridge posts just to reflect on how far we have come together the past few years. We joke we took care of our new home, car, baby, and life threatening illness in the first three years of marriage. Can anything really get harder? (knock on wood).
"In looking at the two, hockey and being sick, the hockey team was and continues to be so supportive regarding all the cancer-related stuff: coming to the house when I was sick (and) all the way to the bone marrow drive.
"My goal as a coach is to create well-rounded responsible young men through hockey. I wish we could have made the journey to state together, but I think this first season as a journey was special in itself. I wouldn't have wanted my first head coaching job to be with any other group. They have fun, they love to play, and they are great kids. They are going to grow up to be stellar men."
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