Stevenson's Siroky Surges Amid Challenges, Skates & Swims to Stardom

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

January 13, 2022

McKenzie Siroky isn't the first female athlete to compete on a boys hockey team in Michigan, but she might well be the best.

Siroky's decision to try out, and be selected, for the Livonia Stevenson boys hockey team this season required a firm commitment and a hefty dose of courage. Siroky easily could have remained on the elite HoneyBaked AAA team she had been a member of for four years but she saw this, competing with and against the boys, as an opportunity.

And Siroky has never been one to back down from a new challenge. Besides, competing against the boys is nothing new for her – she has three older brothers who came through Stevenson coach David Mitchell's program – and she's confident it will eventually lead her to becoming a better player as she prepares to compete at the next level.

Siroky, 16, is a junior forward and arguably one of the top all-around female athletes in Michigan, perhaps the Midwest, over the last 10 years. She recently committed to play hockey at Minnesota-Duluth, one of the country's top programs, and two months ago she set the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Swimming & Diving Finals record in the 100-yard breaststroke.

As a sophomore in 2020, Siroky won the Division 1 title in the breaststroke with a time of 1:01.45. At the Holland Aquatic Center this past November, Siroky won the event with a time of 1:00.85. Her 1:00.48 in the prelim set the MHSAA Finals all-class, all-division record, besting the 1:00.56 swam by Miranda Tucker of Waterford in 2014.

Siroky also was a member of relay teams that finished fourth in both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle.

Although hockey has always been her main sport, Siroky said she intends to compete in swimming next fall.

“I want to be the first to break the 1-minute (mark),” she said.

Given Siroky's track record, it shouldn't surprise anyone if she did. It's that challenge thing.

Sure she's talented, but there's so much more to Siroky than pure ability. She's had to overcome obstacles and heartaches most only hear about – and her work ethic and willingness to sacrifice have Siroky on the road to success.

Siroky said she started skating when she was about 5 years old. A year later, as a first grader, she played on her first organized hockey team, the Livonia Sharks, and she could hardly contain her joy.

“I remember going to school wearing my jersey,” she said. “I was so proud. I wore it all day.”

Siroky has been hooked ever since. But before hockey, there was swimming.

Her mother Michele Siroky also attended Stevenson and was a three-time Class A Finals champion, twice as part of relays and in 1987 in the 200 freestyle, before competing at Michigan State. Michele, who was a teammate of Olympic Gold medalist Sheila Taormina at Stevenson, introduced her eldest daughter to swimming and, although it was more of a summer activity at first, McKenzie’s love for the sport grew. 

Michele's maiden name was McKenzie, hence her daughter's name. She coached at a handful of places including Stevenson and was an occupational therapist before working for Livonia Public Schools. In 2012, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Three years later she developed breast cancer and beat that, but succumbed to the brain cancer and died on July 26, 2017.

McKenzie Siroky“She got me in the pool,” Siroky said. “She coached me for five or six years until she couldn't anymore. She also swam the breaststroke. I got most of my training (in that event) from her.

“She gave me motivation. She gave back to the community by coaching at Burton Hollow (Swim Club) and other ways.”

Michele was an exceptional person. She devoted herself to the care of children and her family. She made a seamless transition from being a swim mom to a hockey mom, driving her children to practice, preparing meals and keeping a sharp eye on their schedules.

For Siroky, a day doesn't pass without thoughts of her mother, who was her mentor, teacher and friend. She continues to draw strength from her and remains a driving force in her life.

As much as Siroky enjoyed being in the pool, and having her mother as a coach, hockey has always been her favorite sport. Perhaps it was watching her bothers (Alex, Kyle and Jack) play and compete so well that made such an impact on her. Or perhaps the realization that she was good at it, and enjoyed every minute on the ice, playing or practicing.

As she advanced from the Sharks to the Livonia Knights, Siroky ran into disappointment – and it proved beneficial.

The girls program placed two age groups per level. When Siroky was 9, she tried out for the 10-and-under team and was cut as the coaches leaned toward keeping the older players, leaving fewer spots for the younger ones. Undeterred, Siroky went to nearby Farmington where there was a team for her age group.

“It worked out well,” she said. “I started playing at the Triple-A level there. In Livonia they only had Double-A. I feel eventually I would have gone over (to Farmington). Yeah, being cut, I always use that as motivation.”

Other than skating with her brothers, the first time Siroky competed against the boys took place at a developmental summer camp while attending Holmes Middle School in Livonia.

“I felt like I matched up well,” she said. “I was fine.”

This experience made the decision to switch from HoneyBaked to competing with Stevenson this season all the easier.

“It came down to where I was going to develop the most,” she said. “I was playing in an age group, and I had a discussion (with HoneyBaked coaches) to move up.

“Now that I'm on the team, I couldn't be more grateful. I'm trying to get better every day. That's what Coach Mitch says – work to get better every day. And the guys have been great, pushing me every day in practice.”

The more Siroky faces adversity, the more she's inspired to excel.

“Her whole motivation is to be challenged,” Mitchell said. “She's not one to back down. It comes down to how can she become better.”

In July, Siroky was one of 32 players, including five total from Michigan, invited to compete in the USA Hockey Girls U18 Select Player Development Camp in St. Cloud, Minn. This group represented the best of the best for the age group, and from them 23 were selected to the USA U18 women's national team that would compete in the 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women's World Championships.

McKenzie SirokyEarlier this month, those 23 players were officially named as members of the 2022 Olympic team that will compete in China in February.

Siroky didn't make the final cut, thus adding motivation and another reason to compete with and against the boys.

“We look at this as an opportunity,” Mitchell said. “Everyone knows McKenzie and the positive energy she brings. She's infectious. It's been a win, win, win for everyone.”

When her mother passed, Siroky found it difficult, at times, to concentrate on her schoolwork. Yes, swimming and hockey provided an outlet, something she could sink her teeth into, but her attention toward school took time. And she received help. 

Two years ago, Siroky moved in with her grandmother, Barbara McKenzie, and it was just what Siroky needed. Her grandmother and the guidance she provided filled a gap.

“She does so much for me,” Siroky said. “It gets so busy for me. She'll take things off my shoulders, like some days I'll see that all my laundry is done. That really helps. She knows I like to eat fruits and vegetables, so she'll buy them. And she lives right across from Stevenson, so that saves me time, too.”

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Siroky's grades improved the last two years. She's earned all As.

Her schedule, especially in the fall when she competes in swimming and has hockey practice, is mind-boggling. Three times a week she'll go to swim practice in the morning before school. Then there's practice five days a week after school as well as Saturdays. After swim practice she'll take care of her homework assignments, have dinner, then go to hockey practice. No swim practice on Sundays, so those days are devoted to hockey.

She can't remember the last time she watched television. Energy drinks are a no-no, and she doesn't drink coffee or eat anything that has processed sugar.

“I'm living in the moment,” Siroky said. “I repeat to myself, over and over, ‘How bad do you want it?’”

The results are in full view with hockey and her education taking center stage. She achieved one major goal, that being to play in college. Another would be to make the U.S. U18 national team. 

More immediate is this hockey season, which could prove to be quite successful for the Spartans. They started 1-1 (Siroky missed both games due to the swim Finals) and have won 10 of 11 since, including the last five. Stevenson's two losses are to Grosse Pointe South (3-2) and Birmingham Brother Rice (3-1).

“We lost 18 seniors from last year,” Mitchell said. “This group is phenomenal. It's been a high-character group.”

Tom Markowski primarily covered high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. He also is a former correspondent and web content director for State Champs! Sports Network. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Livonia Stevenson’s McKenzie Siroky helps her team to an 8-0 win over Trenton on Jan. 5 (Middle) Siroky sets the all-class/division MHSAA Finals record in the 100 breaststroke during the LPD1 preliminaries in November. (Below) Siroky and her grandmother Barbara McKenzie. (Top photo by Douglas Bargerstock, middle photo by High School Sports Scene, below photo courtesy of McKenzie Siroky.)

Moggach Honored Nationally for 25 Years of 'Sticking In, Doing Good'

By Tim Robinson
Special for

March 17, 2023

When Paul Moggach began his tenure as Brighton’s hockey coach, the program was at its nadir.

“When we got into high school hockey, it wasn't very good,” he said recently. “Our league wasn't very good. Our team wasn't very good. We started with character to try to build something different, you know, a different mousetrap.”

Over the next quarter of a century, Moggach and his assistants, primarily Rick Bourbonais (whom Moggach succeeded as coach) and current coach Kurt Kivisto helped lift the program into one of the most respected, and successful, in the state. 

Moggach (pronounced MUG-uhth), along with former Detroit Catholic Central coach Gordon St. John, in February was named a co-recipient of the John Mariucci Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

They, along with Andy Weidenbach of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, are the only Michigan coaches to have received the award, named after the longtime hockey coach at Michigan Tech. 

“He brought in people that he knew could do things he may have had limitations at,” said Kivisto, who played for Moggach at Brighton two decades ago and was an assistant for 10 years before taking over as head coach in 2020. “He did a good job surrounding himself with people he trusted and knew would be good for the program while he steered the ship in the direction he wanted. And he was very good at that.”

Moggach calls the honor “very humbling.

“​​I got into hockey because there was a need,” he added, “then I ended up with Rick at the high school for those years. When you look back at it, I grew a lot. I grew a lot personally and from a coaching perspective I grew. I had to change things, and so I think it's not so much the reward as at least a recognition that I stuck it out. My grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Stick in and do good.’ She would say that when I was on the way out the door. That was her message to me, and I think (the award) just emphasizes that I did, I did stick in.”

“You can’t be happier for a guy than for a guy like Paul,” said Bourbonais, who coached with Moggach at Brighton for a total of 30 years, the last 20 as an assistant. “He took a hockey team and made it into a hockey program that is a top-five contender every year. Guys come out of the program with championships, but they also come out with life lessons and some idea of what it takes to be a great citizen and a great student as well as what it takes to be a great athlete.” 

At first, though, there were trials. The Bulldogs struggled in his first two seasons, and the program itself was in jeopardy for a short while after a bench-clearing brawl.

Once that crisis passed, Moggach and his staff, which for many years consisted of Bourbonais, Mike Brown and Jason Valente, worked to rebuild the Bulldogs from a team known for its physicality to one with a more wide-open passing style of play. 

When hockey trends went to a more defensive style, where the defense sparked the offense, Moggach adapted. 

During the first decade of his tenure, as the Bulldogs had more success and built their reputation, teams that had shunned scheduling them in the past began adding Brighton to their schedules. 

He kept looking for ways to improve his team, both on and off the ice.

Brighton was the first team to schedule a game with those in the Keweenaw Peninsula, both for the keen competition, but also as a team-bonding exercise. 

The bus rides, about 11 hours each way, helped players who in many cases didn’t know each other outside the rink to bond. So did activities outside of hockey including team dinners and curling, and the experience of being together as a team for four days.

Other teams took notice, and team bonding trips, including those far shorter than the 550 miles from Brighton to Houghton, are commonplace.

Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. Soon after, he introduced a skating coach and stricter team nutrition to the program.

“It’s not something that we had done when I was in high school," said Kivisto, who graduated in 2003. “It was something that some of the families and players weren’t overly excited about, but he knew it was good for the team and he was always looking ahead and finding ways to give his team an advantage.”   

Brighton grew to dominate its league, and winning gave Moggach the authority to introduce concepts new to players and families who grew up in travel hockey.

“I'm sure we weren't pleasing everybody,” he said, “But we thought we would do with character and live the kind of model that we would hope that the players would follow, that their families would follow. And as we did that it changed and we got in front of some things with our league, and had a good run in our league.”

Brighton won its first Division 1 championship in 2006. That was followed by back-to-back Division 1 titles in 2012 and 2013, and then 2017 and 2018, a stretch that saw the Bulldogs reach the Finals in six out of seven seasons. 

“Some of that is when you learn how to win, you win, even sometimes when you shouldn't,” he said. “I'm not saying that you know when we got to the Finals that we didn't deserve to win. We had a good recipe there that got us those five wins, but once we got it rolling, that momentum kept us going sometimes then maybe it shouldn't have.”

As the program’s success and reputation grew, players who had been in travel hockey started opting to play for the Bulldogs. 

“There are some kids on (this year’s Brighton) team who came from Triple A who are tired of that commitment, because of the travel, the time, the money,” he said. “And they found that high school hockey is different. I mean just look at the crowds. They don't get that kind of a reward for the work that they put in. 

“I think it's developed to that point now for us and we get players like that and it's made a difference, I think, and not just for our team but for all of high school hockey, " Moggach continued. “The coaches association has done a great job in promoting now and so it is a great destination for so many good reasons for kids to spend that time and grow up with their friends who are in their neighborhoods and in their community.”

Moggach is still a fixture at Brighton games, still in close touch with Kivisto when not driving to see his grandsons play or his stepson, Damon Whitten, who coaches at Lake Superior State. 

His impact will be felt in Brighton hockey for years to come.

“He left no stone unturned to try and be the best he thought we could be,” Brighton athletic director John Thompson said. “He’s one of those people who was genuinely invested in young people, and he always, always put the program first. He was a good manager of young men and developed some pretty good coaches, too.”

Moggach finished with a record of 467-172-43. St. John, who won six state titles at Catholic Central and another at Cranbrook, had a record of 229-29-18 in 10 seasons at Catholic Central.

“I was excited for (Moggach) when I heard the news,” Kivisto said, “seeing him put at a level of the guys who have won the award and the contributions they made to high school hockey. It’s neat to see him recognized at that level.”

Both men will receive their awards sometime this spring. 

“I can be recognized,” Moggach said, “and I think kids are and their families are always looking for that. But I think before you do that you have to build the program, the program has to be something that's respectful and respected and competitive, and I think we accomplished that.”


Gordon St. John led Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to a combined eight Finals championships over 16 seasons, the last seven with the Shamrocks including five straight in Class A or Division 1 from 1999-2003.

Gordon St. JohnDCC’s Class A championship in 1994 was the first of now 17 Finals titles, which rank second-most in MHSAA history. He built a 222-29-18 record (.859 winning percentage) over 10 seasons leading the Shamrocks through 2003-04, the last two seasons as co-head coach before then staying with the program as an assistant and helping the team to another Division 1 championship in 2005.

St. John’s championship at Cranbrook came in 1988 in Class B-C-D.

PHOTOS (Top) Retired Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach, far right, stands alongside his players as they await to receive their medals after winning the 2018 Division 1 championship (Middle) Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. (Middle photo by Tim Robinson; St. John photo courtesy of the American Hockey Coaches Association.)