Brighton Coach's Impact 'Immeasurable'

By Tim Robinson
Special for

October 7, 2020

Paul Moggach has never been much for looking back.

And as he begins his first season away from the Brighton hockey program in more than three decades, he’s still looking ahead.

“I’m thinking about what I’m going to miss more than the mark I left,” he said in a phone conversation last week. “I guess I enjoyed so much of the time I had, the opportunity to coach at Brighton, I’m thinking more how I fill the time and the things I'll miss.”

Moggach (pronounced MUG-uth) retired as Brighton’s coach this past summer after 25 seasons and having led five teams to MHSAA Division 1 championships. He compiled a record of 466-172-47 during that period.

But that’s not what he remembers most, nor why he wants people to remember him.

“I would like them to remember the teams and players who played for me and my assistants, more than me,” Moggach said. “We have so many blessings and opportunities in our lives, and hockey was one for me and hopefully for the players and assistants I worked with.”

One of those assistants was Kurt Kivisto, who joined the Bulldogs originally as a team manager more than 20 years ago and was a player at Brighton. He eventually won a national championship at Michigan State before rejoining the program as an assistant coach a decade ago.

“The No. 1 thing I’ll take from him is sticking by your beliefs and not sacrificing those beliefs for the team,” said Kivisto, who was named Moggach’s successor in September. “He sticks by those beliefs and ... he’s not willing to sacrifice that even if it could hurt the team. The character and integrity he has, how he treats people with fairness and what he believes is right is the biggest thing I’ll take.”

A stepson, Damon Whitten, played for Moggach at Brighton and at MSU before becoming an assistant coach and eventually the head coach at Lake Superior State, where he is in his eighth season.

Asked about Moggach’s impact at Brighton, Whitten said, “I’m not sure you can measure it. Your mind goes to the hockey players who have come to Brighton, and that’s a big part. But I think it goes beyond that. The money they’ve raised over the years for different families in need, for example. He’s had a big impact, and the players he had were a big part of that, but it goes well beyond that, and he did it the right way. Thirty-plus years (in the program), and I’m not sure you can count more than a handful of times where he made a bad decision or handled things poorly. He did things the right way, every day, all of the time, and I think it’s why he was so successful for so long.”

The team’s charitable works were mostly kept under the radar – Moggach’s reasoning being his players had been given much, it was their turn to give back, and he didn’t want people thinking they did those things for publicity.

Moggach joined Rick Bourbonais as an assistant at Brighton in the mid-1980s, then switched roles with him for the 1996-97 season.

He realized Brighton’s potential in the 1992-93 season, when the Bulldogs upset perennial state power Trenton in the Class A Quarterfinals before losing to Detroit Catholic Central in a Semifinal.

“That, to me, said, at least in my mind, that we can do this,” Moggach said. “It’s not impossible.”

He slowly began to build the program, getting good players and a schedule that would challenge them.

“You get the players by building a good culture,” he said. “Back in the day, when I started, we weren’t very disciplined and our league wasn’t very disciplined. So I think we realized we had to build that, and I could have an influence on building that in Brighton.”

Along with the culture, Moggach looked for an edge whenever he could find it. He was talked into making a trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula by one of his player’s parents, and found enormous benefits for his team, both competitively and in team bonding.

“It’s a lot about the little things we do,” he said, “that we find joy in, and create those opportunities. Creating the little moments really can build to bigger moments. We played capture the flag one day in about two feet of snow.

“Almost killed them,” he added, chuckling. The exhausted players didn’t have much left for the game that night, but spending time together for four days in a bus and hotel room always brought the team closer on and off the ice.

That first UP expedition also led to more teams making the trip, for team bonding and a glimpse of a part of the state, and themselves, they might never have seen otherwise.

“We didn’t do that for long,” he said. “But we always came back saying we were better together because of that experience.”

Bob Nelson had three sons play for Moggach, and Nelson’s wife, Kris, was president of the team’s booster club during their involvement over nearly a decade in Brighton hockey. Nelson also coached the program’s younger players for five seasons.

“We got to know the Moggachs really well,” he said. “It was a good experience, both as a coach and as a parent as well.”

Moggach introduced other things, including an emphasis on nutrition and off-ice training, that players resisted at first until they saw the benefits.

He savored conversations with referees and opposing coaches before the games and even the occasional reporter after games.

But his first priority was the players. At times he would erupt in practice at a player or, more commonly, the team, and the boys soon learned to hear the message, not the volume. But for a couple of seasons, they also wrote some of his wilder statements down in a notebook after practice.

One year, they read some of them at the banquet, and after each one, Moggach’s wife, Sharon, would look at him and ask, “Did you really say that?”

Moggach would laugh and confess to remembering he had actually done so, then laughing.

“He knew part of what made the program good was his relationship to the players,” Nelson said. “If it was a good time, he wanted to enjoy it, even at his own expense at times.”

Moggach has staying in the background this offseason, letting Kivisto shape the team.

Asked if he were willing to fully switch coaching roles, as he and Bourbonais did a quarter-century ago, Moggach laughed.

“No,” he said emphatically. “Rick wasn’t in his 70s when we made the switch. Kurt needs his time. I’ll be there if he needs me.”

Moggach, who is 74, still works fulltime as the University of Michigan’s director of risk management.

He plans to spend more time with his wife and watch his grandsons play hockey, as well as catching some Lake Superior State games.

“I was really blessed to have Rick and Brownie (longtime assistant Mike Brown) along for the ride, and then to get Kurt involved,” Moggach said. “They weren’t the only ones, but they were the kids for me.

“The other thing is the support from the Brighton (High School) administration, the teachers, and our community. There are more people to thank than I could ever bring up. I do think that, all together, it was a great run. It couldn’t have been any better.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Recently-retired Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach celebrates the 2018 Division 1 championship game win over Saginaw Heritage at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Former player Kurt Kivisto, left of Moggach during the 2018 Semifinal win over Detroit Catholic Central, served as an assistant before assuming the head coaching job in September. (Below) Brighton's 2018 championship was its fifth under Moggach. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Traverse Bay Reps Teammates Unite to Take on Great Lakes Paddle Board Pursuit

By Tom Spencer
Special for

August 3, 2023

Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.

This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.

Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.

They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.

‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”

It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.  

Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.

Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights.  They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.

The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.

“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”

Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.

“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.

Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.   

Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.

Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.

Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.

The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.

Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.

“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”

Morris echoed Guy.

“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”

The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.

The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.

“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.

Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season.“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”

Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.

“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.

“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”

High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.

But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.  

“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”

But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.

“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)