We returned from our five-week vacation in the Pacific Northwest, including my home state of California, on March 12. Yes, we managed to escape much of the challenging winter endured by our friends and family in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Oregon, however, was cold and Washington was slightly warmer, but the former had more than its share of the white stuff that closes schools. I realize that except for the mountains, snow doesn’t last long and really doesn’t amount to much in the Golden West.
While in Oregon, we had a chance to visit with a pair of still loyal Stillwater Ponies fans Jim and Carole Dee Salmon, who reside in Hillsboro, Ore. The Salmons were prominent Ponies hockey and football fans during the years that Mike ’94 and Ryan ’96 cavorted for the Big Red.
Jim was a standout football and hockey athlete at Minneapolis Washburn and Carole Dee was on the cheer squad while growing up in St. Louis, Mo. She was an all-star Ponies fan who made red and black cowbells vogue before they were banned by the MSHSL.
I had the privilege of coaching their sons in football with help from their enthusiastic parents.
Jim, or his moniker “Chico” as a member of the famed “Barker Brothers” hockey fan booster group, only intensified his love of the sport.
One of the major things that I enjoyed at those hockey games was Carole Dee’s rallying the troops with the cowbell that I remember one night drawing the ire of some White Bear Lake fans. I loved it — we won!
Mike (King) Salmon was a d-back on our 1993 section champion and state quarterfinalist football team (10-2) that saw him making three picks for the season and earning a game ball in a 35-21 victory over Irondale. He still manages to play a few hockey games and contributed to a 10-12-1 season on the ice for the Ponies his senior year.
Mike teaches school in northeast Portland and is married to the lovely Samantha Levine, a naturopathic doctor. Their children are Phoebe, 13, and Nico, 4. Additionally, Mike teaches yoga — how about that! He has a master’s degree from Montana State and works with special needs kids.
Ryan (Coho), the other Salmon, was an all-conference d-end on our 1995 state championship football team (14-0) that was voted the state’s best in the first 25 years of playing title games at the Metrodome. That team was never behind.
Ryan earned three game balls and tied Nate Dwyer with 12 sacks that season. Coho scored a defensive TD in the 28-14 victory over previously unbeaten Wayzata at state.
He was also 15-8 during his senior hockey season under coach Bill Lechner and he later played at Bemidji State, where he received has degree in physical education. Ryan spent the next 10 years in Alaska, where he met and married the lovely Vanessa and produced children Syd, 5, and Ollie, 3.
The Cohos also live in Hillsboro, where Ryan is pursuing a doctorate in occupational therapy.
The Salmons are happy and spawning in the northwest — after all, salmon are the backbone of that part of the country.
In the huddle
I’m sure that the Salmons were as surprised and excited as we were when the Ponies’ hockey team knocked off rivals and foils White Bear Lake and Hill-Murray to advance to the state tournament for the first time school history — a total of 59 seasons. Matt Doman (16-12-2) and his Ponies took a giant step
in the right direction…. It was fun following the Winter Olympics run of Stillwater High School alum Jessie Diggins of Afton. Being in California with the two-hour time difference, I had a difficult time keeping track of what was going on, but I think our girl enjoyed a strong Olympics debut. Her eighth-place finish in the 15-kilometer skiathlon is the highest finish for an American woman in a cross country skiing distance event in the Olympics. She also placed 13th in the freestyle sprint and anchored the ninth-place 4 x 5-kilometer relay before closing out the Games with a 40th-place showing under unseasonably warm conditions in the 30-kilometer freestyle race…. Sorry to
see the passing of Stillwater good guy and longtime friend Richard “Dick” Olsen at 78 years young. Olsen was a five-star, four-sport athlete for the Ponies and a SCVAA Hall of Fame inductee. I had a lot of great times with Olsen that I will cherish always…. A tragic automobile accident claimed the life of Stillwater’s Paxton Harvieux, a multi-talented 21-year-old who was a junior at Carleton College. We watched young Harvieux grow up to become a highly regarded basketball player and three-sport Ponies athlete who was also an excellent student. Pax was a fine young man who will be missed by all who knew him. The accident also took the lives of two other Carleton students…. No less than four Ponies girls’ soccer players will take their talents to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks next fall. Lexie Andres, Natalie Johnson, Tracy Mather and Leah Nitardy will head north. If the girls think that it gets cold in our area — you ain’t seen nothing yet! Ali Schilling will also play soccer at Minnesota State-Mankato…. It’s too bad the Gophers men’s basketball team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, but it’s good that the NDSU Bison did!!…. Smiling will brighten your face, laughter will brighten your day, and friends will brighten your life…. finis
Today’s rumination #655
The finest forgiving includes forgetting.
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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Fridays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org