Tradition, Community Drive Talented Trenton
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
December 14, 2017
TRENTON – There’s something special about the sport of ice hockey in Trenton. There are those who would contend, at the high school level, that Trenton is Hockeytown.
Trenton has won 14 MHSAA titles, second only to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood’s 17. But the importance of hockey in this downriver community goes beyond winning on the ice. The sport transcends the ice to the lives of people who have never laced up skates.
Chad Clements has experienced this firsthand, first as a fan, then as a player and now as a coach.
Clements was a junior on the 1996 Class A championship team. He also played on two other teams (1995, 1997) that reached the Finals.
Clements played for legendary coach Mike Turner, and it was Clements who replaced Turner in 2014 when Turner retired.
Replacing someone who gave so much to the sport and the Trenton community would be a no-win situation for some. It’s often been said that you don’t want to replace a legend. You want to be that coach who replaced the guy who replaced the legend.
Not Clements. He spent 12 seasons as Turner’s assistant and had no doubts he was the right person for the job.
And Clements was not alone. Turner backed Clements, and so did the administration.
Dr. Michael Doyle is in his 13th year as principal at Trenton High and he had no second thoughts about whom his school district should hire to replace Turner.
“Chad is an educator, a true educator, on the ice and in the classroom,” Doyle said. “That was critical (in the hiring process). He knows his stuff. He’s a great teacher. He’s passionate. You keep it in the family, yes, but when the job opened up, he was the perfect fit.
“(And) as a principal, it’s so helpful to have coaches in the building.”
This is Clements’ 16th season coaching at Trenton, and it’s his 16th year teaching social studies at the high school. A graduate of Michigan State University, Clements, 38, has been groomed for his place in the community.
“As a player, I always had great respect for (Turner),” Clements said. “His son was a year older than me, and he played with my brother who was two years older than me. So I knew (Turner) at an early age. It was always ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ when I was around him. He was a quiet guy, at that time, around me. Then my senior year he opened up to me, as a person. He asked me what I was I going to do. What plans did I have for college and after? So when I came back (to teach and coach), I remembered that.
“For me, as a coach, (our relationship) was completely different. Behind closed doors he’d talk and talk and talk about hockey and his family, and I never expected that.
“We’ve been close ever since.”
Turner holds the state record for career hockey coaching victories at 629. He began coaching in 1974, took some time away from the game following the 1981 season and returned to coaching in 1995, Clements’ first season on varsity. Of the program’s 14 MHSAA titles, Turner was on the bench for 11.
Clements said he and Turner talk at least once a week, about hockey and life in general. Turner travels extensively now, to Europe and throughout the U.S., and much of their conversations include capsules of the many sites Turner has seen. But when he’s back in the area, Turner is often seen at Trenton hockey games.
In many ways Clements is the right person at the right time for the program. He knows the expectations are high, yet at the same time he doesn’t place added pressure on himself to win. He was taught that if you do your best, by putting in the time and the work, then you can go home at night, look at yourself in the mirror and be satisfied with the results.
The results have been quite positive so far this season. The Trojans are 5-2 with losses to Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, two of the top teams in Division 1. Trenton, which will compete in Division 2, has defeated reigning Division 2 champion Birmingham Brother Rice (4-1).
“I’m surprisingly happy with our start,” Clements said. “I knew we would be young. I didn’t know what the expectations would be. I wouldn’t expect to be 5-2 after seven games, I’ll tell you that. The kids just keep working and working and working. We lost a tough one against Cranbrook in overtime, but the kids bounced back.”
Trenton has received a big boost from sophomore goaltender Joey Cormier. The Trojans would be lost without him – if for no other reason than Cormier is the lone goaltender of the roster. Another goalie will back up Cormier, but he won’t be eligible until the second semester.
“I told (Cormier), you’re my guy,” Clements said. “He’s given us a chance to win in every game.”
Last season was a disappointment for Clements and his team. The Trojans were defeated in a Pre-Regional by Livonia Churchill, 4-3 in overtime, and senior center Drew Welsch said some of the problems were internal. His team also is welcoming back the support from classmates.
“We lost our fan base,” he said. “We’re getting more support this season. We got our band back. … I’m good friends with the guys who get the student section going at games, and me and the other seniors are trying to get more to come out. So far it’s been fun. There’s nothing better than playing before a big crowd.”
The Trenton community’s passion for its hockey program certainly is a difference-maker. Some of the state’s top hockey players choose to play travel hockey rather than for their schools. On the travel circuit, players get more games, and against stronger competition.
But fewer fans, mostly family members, attend travel hockey games. School spirit doesn’t exist. And for Welsch, Trenton’s leading scorer last season and so far this winter, the trade-off isn’t worth it.
“This is my favorite team I’ve been a part of,” he said. “It’s the tradition. There’s not a team I’d rather play for.”
It’s a two-way street. The players receive the acclaim from the student body and the community, and they give back, too.
For the past month the players have been collecting cans to raise money to give to a needy family in Trenton for Christmas. The holiday came early this past Sunday for a single parent and her two children when the players presented her with $1,000 worth of gifts including clothes, food, a Lego set, a tablet, and gift cards.
“The support we get is awesome,” Welsch said. “I like doing it. They support us. We have to help them out in any way we can.”
That’s the way it is in Trenton. You grow up there, you go to school there and many, like Clements, return home to work there.
“Community, that’s what we try to sell,” he said. “Whether it’s your classmates in the crowd and when you get a teacher or a staff member there, it means a lot to these guys. To see your teacher in the stands, taking two or three hours out of their lives to watch you play, it means so much. Heck, we’ve had the mayor come out and firemen and police officers. I’ve been able to establish relationships. It’s nice to have that.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily 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. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Trenton’s Drew Welsch (12) moves the puck up ice with a teammate trailing. (Middle) Goalie Joey Cormier has been an anchor in net for the Trojans. (Below) Trenton’s players also took time this winter to bring an early Christmas to a local family. (Photos by Christine Stawowczyk.)
Moggach Honored Nationally for 25 Years of 'Sticking In, Doing Good'
By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
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.
DCC’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.)