MANKATO, Minn. -- Max Coatta didn't choose Minnesota State because of his Mankato connections, but he sure appreciates them now that he's been here awhile.
Every once in awhile, the Minnesota State men's hockey junior forward runs into someone who knew his grandfather, John Coatta, who was the college's football coach from 1970 to 1975.
"It's cool to see and meet some people who talk about my grandpa," Coatta said. "That kind of thing is cool for sure, talking to old coaches who were here. It's fun to run into them."
That includes Don Brose, the longtime hockey coach, whose career overlapped Coatta's.
"It's fun to hear (Brose) talk about him," Max Coatta said.
John Coatta, who took over the football team from Bob Otto, had five winning seasons in six years, compiling a 35-24-2 overall record before the school dropped football in 1976. Prior to that he was the head coach at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a star quarterback in the 1950s. When MSU dropped football, he went to the University of Minnesota as an offensive coordinator. He did not return when Minnesota State reinstated football in 1977. He died in 2000.
While John Coatta was coaching the college team here, John Coatta Jr., Max's dad, was playing quarterback for the Mankato East High School football team. After graduating from East, where he also played basketball and baseball (there was no hockey then). He played college football at Catawba College in North Carolina and went on to coach high school football and golf. He was inducted into East's athletics hall of fame in 2003.
"It's a lot of fun to come back and see the town and reconnect and see people," John Coatta Jr. said. "It was a great town to grow up in."
Now, his son is carving out his own path in Mankato.
Max Coatta was voted one of the Mavericks' three captains in the offseason, sharing leadership duties with seniors C.J. Suess and Brad McClure.
"That's probably the biggest honor I've had as a hockey player," said Coatta, who grew up in Minnetonka. "Definitely an honor that my teammates voted for me."
Coach Mike Hastings said that it came as no surprise.
"He's earned that just by being Max Coatta," Hastings said. "Dependable, work ethic, strong character, moral compass, coach's kid. He's earned the coaching staff's and the players' respect."
To the general public, Coatta may have flown under the radar a bit compared to Suess, McClure and some of the team's other top scorers and standouts.
He's played 80 career games, though, missing just five -- none since his freshman year -- and has 11 career goals and 15 assists."He's going to bring energy. He can be physical, and he can play with pace," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. "He's a pain to play against. He keeps the game simple. He going to kill penalties."
That doesn't mean that he's just a grinder.
Hastings said Coatta can be a real offensive threat and wants to see him shoot the puck more often. Coatta scored 30 goals in two seasons of junior hockey, one in the United States Hockey League and one in the British Columbia Hockey League. At Minnetonka, he scored 89 goals in four seasons.
"He can shoot a puck," Hastings said.
Coatta's been held off the board so far this season but agrees with his coach that he can do more offensively. He hopes to start tonight when Minnesota State begins a home series against Michigan Tech.
"I've always viewed myself as a shooter," he said. "I don't think I've done that enough through the first five games. That's something I want to get back to. That's when our team is good, too, when we're firing pucks and we're tracking them down."
This article is written by Shane Frederick from The Free Press, Mankato, Minn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.