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Former Bulldogs hockey coach Mike Sertich battles cancer – Duluth News Tribune

Former Bulldogs hockey coach Mike Sertich battles cancer – Duluth News Tribune


DULUTH Mike Sertich, who led the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey program to back-to-back NCAA Frozen Fours and three WCHA regular season titles during his 18 seasons as head coach, is battling cancer.

The 75-year-old Virginia, Minnesota resident is currently recovering at his home on the Iron Range from what he described as two major medical procedures he underwent last week related to a tumor discovered in a large vein in the tail of the pancreas.

Sertich said the official diagnosis of whether his pancreatic cancer or another cancer is still up in the air. He has an appointment with an oncologist for an official diagnosis once he recovers from last week’s procedure.

We’ll go after it, attack it and see what happens, see where we go, Sertich said of his cancer diagnosis. It’s the third period, late in the game, we have to play here.


Former Minnesota Duluth head coach Mike Sertich, second from right, speaks with former players Derek Plante, second from left, and Curt Giles, far right, on Monday, August 16, 2021 at Giants Ridge in Biwabik during a golf game to honor in memory of Mark Pavelich, and to raise money and awareness about mental health in sports.

Clint Austin/File/Duluth News Tribune

Before coaching the Bulldogs, Sertich was a defenseman with UMD from 1966-69. He and Gus Hendrickson coached at Grand Rapids High School before taking over the Bulldogs men’s hockey program in 1975. In 1982, Sertich went from assistant coach to head coach, replacing Hendrickson.

Sertich also coached Michigan Tech for three seasons from 2000-2003, volunteered at St. Scholastica, and worked with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.

In 18 seasons as head of the Bulldogs from 1982-2000, Sertich coached UMD to 350 wins, three WCHA regular season championships (1984-85, 1993), two WCHA postseason titles (1983-84), four NCAA Tournaments (1983- 85, 1993) and back-to-back Frozen Fours (1983-84), including the 1984 NCAA title game that the Bulldogs lost to Bowling Green in four overtimes.

Sertich, winner of the 1983–84 Spencer Penrose Award as National Coach of the Year, coached 11 All-Americans at UMD and 21 future NHL players. Notably, he had six Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalists and three winners Tom Kurvers in 1984, Bill Watson in 1985, and Chris Marinucci in 1994.

Kurvers Hobey 2020

Former Minnesota Duluth coach Mike Sertich, right, puts an arm around his captain, Tom Kurvers, as he congratulates Kurvers on winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 1984. Kurvers was the first of six Bulldogs to win the award. News Tribune file photo

Sertich is a UMD Athletics Hall of Famer and received the 2021 honor of Legend of College Hockey from the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation.

An avid outdoorsman, Sertich described his initial cancer diagnosis as being suddenly hit by a rogue wave while on a lake, river, or ocean. It was a moment he said was hard to describe.

Sertich said he draws inspiration from others who have battled cancer for him, such as Kurvers. While Kurvers finally succumbed to lung cancer in June 2021 at the age of 58 after a two and a half year battle, the Hobey Baker winner never stopped fighting.

He fought and fought and fought. That’s what you have to do, that’s what you have to do, Sertich said. You can’t stay down for this. You have to answer the bell and I’m ready to answer that bell.

Sertich’s daughter, Lori,

has set up a site at

to provide updates on her father. Mike Sertich said he was grateful and overwhelmed by the support from the hockey community, with words of encouragement from coast to coast and from players he coached in both high school and college.

It was overwhelming, to be honest with you. It’s nonstop, Sertich said. It’s very humbling to hear from former players, friends from long ago, college friends, high school friends, and many Duluth folks. It has been an experience in itself.




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