In the southern Twin Cities suburb of Burnsville, for the boys and girls programs, that person was Tom Osiecki. In the mid-1960s, he was the first boys’ hockey coach in the high school program, then known as the Braves, and trained outdoors. About 30 years later, in 1996, Osiecki was the first female hockey coach at Burnsville, which changed her nickname to Blaze in the early 1990s.
Now an effort is underway to permanently honor the man many have called Burnsville’s father of hockey. Recently, the community park’s board of directors approved a proposal to establish a life-size statue of Osiecki outside the Burnsville Ice Center – the two-rink complex that is home to Burnsville Youth and Hockey League. secondary school. In July, Burnsville City Council will review the proposal and, if approved, fundraising for the statue can begin.
This is an effort led by Pete Heunisch, a Burnsville graduate in 1987 and student principal of two of Osiecki’s most successful teams, when the Braves won back-to-back Minnesota State Boys titles in 1985. and 1986. Heunisch admits that Osiecki was not sold on the idea at first.
“Tom never looked for the limelight or was like ‘hey, look what I did’ so he said he didn’t feel he really deserved this,” Heunisch said. . “We all think he’s done great things. He’s the kind of guy who when you walk into the locker room everyone is quiet.
It wasn’t always admiration for Osiecki’s program in the community. In the early 1980s, a petition even circulated calling for his removal from his post as head coach. Mark Osiecki, Tom’s son and assistant coach of the Wisconsin Badgers men’s program, said it was “absolute hell” for a while, recalling that people in their neighborhood had even signed the petition, and that ‘there had been confrontations in the community over what was seen as a poorly performing high school program.
All of that talk ebbed back in 1983 when the Braves made their maiden trip to a state tournament and Osiecki guided them to the state title game, where Burnsville fell to an undefeated Hill- Murray. Two years later, they won a rematch against the Pioneers in the final, and Scott Bloom’s goal with 27 seconds on the clock took Burnsville to a 4-3 victory. The following year, the Braves and Pioneers met again in the title game, with Osiecki’s Burnsville side winning 4-1. They played a third consecutive title game in 1987, but fell to Bloomington Kennedy to finish second.
After leaving the Boys ‘Program in 1990, Osiecki worked as a scout for the Minnesota North Stars / Dallas Stars and then started the Girls’ Blaze Program. He was also a women’s varsity head coach in St. Olaf and assistant coach of the Gophers women’s program for a year in the 2000s.
Now 78, he is retired and lives in Burnsville.
Heunisch worked with Nick Legeros, a local sculptor who previously created a Goldy Gopher mascot statue at the U of M, a Sid Hartman statue that sits outside the Target Center in Minneapolis, and a Willard statue. Ikola which is on display at Braemar Arena in Edina. If the city approves the proposal, Heunisch said an effort to raise up to $ 60,000 to find the statue will begin. Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz praised Osiecki for his contributions to the community and expressed support for the statue, with the caveat that no taxpayer money is used.
“I told Pete, absolutely, and we can have a statue and identify a place in front of the rink, but you’re going to have to collect the money for the statue, like everyone else,” Kautz said in an interview. with the live ice rink. “Public art does not leave the community tax base. People collect money, get an artist to sculpt the piece, then we’ll work with you to place it and so on.
Legeros has already set up a clay model of what the statue will look like, and Heunisch said if all goes well and funds are raised, he hopes the work can be unveiled by this winter, when the community will celebrate its 50th anniversary the arena has been built.
“It is an honor that makes him humble and certainly well deserved for my father,” said Mark Osiecki. “And not just for him, but for the people who helped him build the program. It’s to recognize all those guys who have helped Burnsville hockey reach the status it has achieved.