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Veteran Trenton hockey Coach Mike Turner has 622 career victories and a win Wednesday over U-of-D will give him 623 and tie him with former East Kentwood Coach Ron Baum. Photo by Larry Caruso
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HOCKEY: Trenton's Turner shoots for record (PHOTO)
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The Trojans, who with their win over Warren De LaSalle last Wednesday night are now unbeaten in their last 17 games, play U-of-D Jesuit for first place in the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League’s South Division.
That’s big enough to fill the place on its own, but on top of that, veteran Trenton Coach Mike Turner – recent grandfather, Mike Turner – is sitting on the cusp of a state record.
With a win against U-of-D, Turner will tie former East Kentwood Coach Ron Baum for most wins ever by Michigan high school hockey coach.
The win over De LaSalle was the 622nd of Turner’s career. Baum tops the list with 623.
Turner’s run up the victory ladder has been one of the worst kept secrets around this season. The veteran coach hasn’t wanted to talk publically about the record because he felt it would be a distraction for his team and take away from the Trojans’ already impressive 2014 accomplishments.
But while he has been avoiding talking about the impending record, others have not – they’ve just spoken quietly.
People have been tip-toeing around the old coach and whispering behind his back all season.
He’s the only one who thinks it has not been a topic of conversation.
But the tip-toeing has stopped. That was evident last week during the MIHL Prep Hockey Showcase when coaches from Traverse City to Bowling Green, Ohio came up to wish Turner luck.
Most people generally want Turner to get the record, not because they hold any ill will toward Baum, but because Baum’s record was built through the years against lesser competition.
East Kentwood was long a powerhouse team in the Grand Rapids area and on the west side of the state and the Falcons beat many good teams, but many, many of the wins came against schools from the old Grand Rapids City League, where the skill level was not high. They did not even resurface between each period at many league games.
The Falcons earned scores of regional championships under Baum, but just one state championship, which points to how the Falcons fared most times when the state-tournament competition stiffened.
Ironically, Baum’s lone state title – in 1990 – came against Trenton, coached then by Skip Howey not Turner.
Nobody can challenge the strength of Trenton’s schedule through the years.
The Trojans played in the Michigan Metro Hockey League when it was considered the toughest league in the state and today they play in the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League, now regarded as the best in Michigan.
Powerhouses Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Birmingham Brother Rice and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook have been fixtures on the Trenton’s schedule, not for one game a year but two.
Trenton has not shied from any teams that have gotten good over the years. Livonia teams, Churchill and Stevenson have gotten shots, as have former state champs Grosse Pointe South, Marquette, Muskegon Mona Shores and others.
The tradition of playing powerful opponents goes back to the very beginning when Turner teams of the 1970s battled St. Clair Shores Lakeview, Fraser and Ann Arbor Pioneer, the dominant teams of the era.
Another reason hockey people are rooting for Turner is that fact that after basically starting Trenton’s tradition and winning state titles in 1976, 1979 and 1980, Turner was out of high school coaching for 13 years.
Teacher lay-offs left him without a job in Trenton and he went on to coach in college and run a business after that.
Imagine what his career win total would be if his career hadn’t been interrupted.
Turner has been behind the bench for 10 of Trenton’s 13 state championships, so it just feels right that someone with that post-season pedigree should hold the record for most wins.
But the celebrating can’t begin yet. Wednesday’s game is no gimme. Although Trenton beat U-of-D 8-0 way back in November, that was just the second game of the year for each team and since then the Cubs have beaten nearly everyone, including Brother Rice and Cranbrook.
Trenton owns a one-point edge on the Cubs in the standings.
Expect a battle on the ice Wednesday, not a gentle, sentimental send-off.
Turner’s time behind the Trenton bench is short. He is retired from teaching, he loves to travel, his golfing buddies go to Florida in the winter and now his son Chris – a former Trenton player, you’ll remember – has given him a grandson (Anderson) and a reason to visit North Carolina more often.
Turner is likely to get the state record, but whether he does or not, this is probably his last season.
Wednesday’s game and the Tuesday, Feb. 24 pre-regional playoff game with Roosevelt are very likely his last at Kennedy Arena.
It would be great to pack the old building this week to acknowledge the 2014 team and tell the stoic old coach what he has meant to the school and to the city.
Last Updated: 2/14/2014 1:46:59 PM EST