Mike Graves skates into final season of coaching boys ice hockey

Fighting+for+the+puck%3A+Junior+Bobby+Albertson+and+senior+Will+Schnorr+skate+swiftly+towards+the+puck+to+claim+possession+to+Conestoga.+The+team+made+it+to+the+State+Championship+semi-finals+this+year+before+a+devastating+loss+on+March+13%2C+but+they+look+to+make+it+to+the+Flyers+Cup+Tournament+next+season.

Fighting for the puck: Junior Bobby Albertson and senior Will Schnorr skate swiftly towards the puck to claim possession to Conestoga. The team made it to the State Championship semi-finals this year before a devastating loss on March 13, but they look to make it to the Flyers Cup Tournament next season.

By Olivia Thompson, Photography Editor

The boys’ hockey team triumphantly clutches the Central League Championship trophy high above its head, showing off their accomplishment to fans in the bleachers. Behind the team, players will find some of their biggest supporters in the rink: the coaches. In particular, Coach Michael “Mike” Graves feels accomplished and determined to end his 17th and final season coaching the hockey team with success on the ice.

Graves, a former Conestoga varsity boys’ hockey player from ’93 to ’97, had hoped to repeat a win in the Flyers Cup Tournament, but the season was cut short at the semi-finals.

“We weren’t totally sure what to expect with the new (players) this year,” Graves said. “In the coaches’ heads, we wanted to win the Central League Championship, which we got done, and hopefully the Flyers Cup and State Championship. The team came together a lot quicker than I thought this year and we are happy with where we are.”

Graves is more than familiar with the Flyers Cup, as he won it when he was senior captain of the Conestoga boys’ hockey team in 1997. He won again in 2008 with Conestoga as head varsity coach. Graves said that while both wins were fulfilling, the win in 2008 is his biggest accomplishment because coaching was more nerve-wracking.

“Before playing, I used to be an absolute nervous mess, probably leading up to the game and then I’d get on the ice and be fine. As a player you can just go out on the ice and do it, but as a coach it feels a little more out of your control,” Graves said.

It is for this reason that Graves declares his biggest personal success to be coaching the 2008 team to victory at the Flyers Cup Championship, with this year’s Central League Champs title as runner-up. He credits his success to the players and support system that the team has grown.

“The players have to believe in their coach as their leader and apply those things on the ice. I also have a great group of parents, a great support group through the years. I am lucky to have been doing this as long as I have. It’s not possible without the players and parents, and the school. The school has been more than supportive and helpful too. Everything that goes into it makes it work,” Graves said.

Although he will not coach at the high school level next year, Graves will continue coaching at the elementary school level. He said that he will miss the varsity boys he has coached throughout the years.

“You see the whole picture of what’s going on in these kids’ lives, and some are more complicated than others, and you get to be there and be a part of that,” Graves said.

Senior Malcolm Roeder said he is thankful for the support that Graves showed him.

“He brought in a goalie coach for me when I was in fourth grade and that was the first of many kind favors he’s done for me over the years, and he’s continued with those supporting actions all the way until my senior year in high school,” Roeder said.

Junior Bobby Albertson has known him since middle school and believes that Graves has impacted him beyond the rink.

“He knows how to make playing hockey enjoyable, like it should be, while imbedding important lessons that translate beyond the rink and into my life. Coach Mike never hesitates to encourage us and get us believing in ourselves to overcome adversity, ” Albertson said.

This year marks the 24th year that Graves has been involved with the Conestoga boys’ hockey program as both a coach and player. He said he is grateful of all experiences he has had with the program and will fondly remember his time with the team.

“I played for the high school, I played through college, I played on travel teams, but my favorite memories are playing for the high school team,” Graves said.

Leading the team: Mike Graves coaches from the sidelines. He led them to the Flyers Cup semi-finals this year.
Standing in uniform: Coach Mike Graves poses with his 1997 conestoga varsity ice hockey team. he has been involved with Conestoga boys hockey for 24 years and will retire from high school coaching this year.