Mayo Activities Director Jeff Whitney on making the MHCA Hall of Fame

Whitney co-coached Spartans Boys Hockey from 1999 to 2004.

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(ABC 6 News) — Hockey has always been near and dear to Jeff Whitney.

Now, he’s getting his due, joining the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame, his name now alongside Albert Lea’s Roy Nystrom and John Marshall’s Bob Frerker.

“To look back and be in a group with individuals that have paved the way prior to me is definitely pretty special,” Whitney said with a smile. “It’s a neat thing to be mentioned in the list of names you’ve mentioned and there’s many more across the state.”

Whitney’s passion for Spartans hockey began as a player in the 1980s under legendary head coach Lorne Grosso. Whitney then joined Grosso’s staff in 1987, eventually becoming co-head coach in 1999, a position he held until 2004.

“To me, he’s still coach, I still walk into his office and he’s still coach to me,” current Mayo Boys Hockey head coach Matt Notermann. “You know you can walk in there and ask him anything. That’s why I think so many people when we go have our coaches meetings in minnesota… they know who jeff whitney is, and it’s not that they know him, they have a lot of respect for him.”

But even after he stopped coaching, he sometimes wishes he didn’t. Even as his influence as the current activities director reaches across multiple consistent programs at Mayo High School.

“At some point in my career, we made a decision that I shouldn’t be ad and coach at the same time,” Whitney conceded. “I did it for a number of years, 20+ years… Definitely miss that daily interaction with the group of kids that I got to see at two o’clock every afternoon, three o’clock every afternoon at practice that’s for sure.”

Whitney’s heart still belongs to the ice, and after back-to-back winning seasons for Spartans Boys Hockey, he’s hoping the team will one day capture a state title under Coach Notermann.

“As far as me applying the past lessons to now is that you have to care,” Notermann continued. “Care is a big word. It’s a simple word but it’s a big one. As far as the coach goes and the administrative – you have to care, you have to be working hard.”

The need to win is great, but when student-athletes take up the spartan mantle, it’s not always championship glory that matters. For Whitney, the goal is to help them spread their wings so that one day they too can leave a mark on others the way Whitney has done for Spartans past and present.

“I hope that the people that we’ve got in place now, will carry on the Mayo Spartan torch after I’m long gone,” Whitney reflected. “Definitely maintain the passion for green and gold that I’ve been fortunate enough to have for the last 35 years.”