Wisconsin Hockey Wall of Fame
Ed Roethke grew up playing pond hockey in Northeast Minneapolis and later played for the Minneapolis Edison High School team. He and his wife moved to Menomonie in 1968 so that he could get his degrees in industrial arts and safety at Stout State University. He started his first teaching job at Menomonie High School in the fall of 1972 and retired from there in June 2001.
Youth hockey in Menomonie started with a meeting in September 1972. Those at the meeting were mostly Stout people who wanted to explore the possibility of a hockey program for the kids in town. Roethke volunteered to find out what had to be done to start a program in Wisconsin. He contacted Don Clark in Cumberland who sent him the materials needed to join WAHA and get the program started. 44 players signed up that first year. There were Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees and Bantams. The coaches in the early years were mostly Stout players and Roethke. When the Stout team was on the road, Ed coached all the teams.
A youth hockey board was incorporated into the Dunn County Youth Hockey Association. The rink was in a building on the Dunn County Fairgrounds in Menomonie – thus the program became known as the Dunn County Cougars. Roethke became the first president of the association and held that position for a number of years. A committee of users oversaw the total operation of the facility and Roethke was a member of that group for at least 25 years.
After a couple of years, Menomonie joined the newly formed Western Wisconsin Indianhead Hockey League, and Roethke became the vice-president and scheduler for the league.
The first few years of the program were crazy. The group built a new set of boards in a garage, purchased a tractor-mounted Zamboni, did a lot of fundraising, and with the help of a lot of good parents and friends of hockey, developed a pretty solid youth hockey program. Roethke coached in the Dunn County Youth Hockey program for 13 years, from 1972 to 1985. His coaching duties started with a group of Mites that he coached for eight straight years through the ranks. He also coached the first high school-age players for three years in the beginning years. His first group of players became WAHA Squirt C State Champions in 1975 (Waupun outdoor rink – 22º below zero), Bantam B State Champions in 1979, and Midget B State Champions in 1980. That group of players then moved on to Menomonie High School and became the first WIAA team to represent the school.
When his first group of players was Bantams, a large group of Mites (55), which included his son Eddie and his buddies, were ready to move up the line. He coached them for the next seven years in youth hockey and three more years at the high school. This second group was in four WAHA tournaments and was a runner-up team two times. This group was moved up in classification by the WAHA to an A program, and Menomonie played in a very strong NorWis Hockey League. This experience laid the groundwork for a WIAA State Championship in 1991.
The years (1980–85) were busy times, as Roethke was coaching in youth hockey and the high school at the same time. One of the most memorable times as a youth hockey coach was the weekend he was coaching a Squirt team in a state tournament in Fond du Lac (group 2) and a Midget team in a state tournament in Waupun (group 1) and was running the 20 miles in between games. What made it really interesting was the fact it was during the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game. Roethke spent 13 years in the Dunn County Youth Hockey program, from 1972 to 1985, as an organizer, a worker, a fundraiser, and a coach who was on the bench for 426 games. He was honored as a charter member of the Menomonie Youth Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
The second chapter of his hockey coaching career was at Menomonie High School. He was hired as the first head coach in 1980 when the school district voted to support a WIAA hockey team. He was the head coach for 16 years, an assistant coach for two years, and a hockey aide for two years. He was the head coach for 326 games and the Big Rivers Coach of the Year in 1988. In the summer of 1986, he built a hockey rink for the Dunn County Ice Arena in the high school wood shop with high school players, as a fundraiser for the program.
His teams won sectional titles in 1990 and 1991 and were WIAA State Champions in 1991. Roethke coached 15 players at Menomonie High School who went on to play at the college level. His involvement in high school hockey ended with his retirement from teaching in 2001.
Most people knew Roethke as a hockey guy, but he also was an assistant football coach for two years, an assistant track coach for two years, a head track coach for seven years, and a head cross-country coach for ten years during his 29-year teaching career at Menomonie High School. There was one five-year stretch when he was coaching youth hockey as well as cross-country, hockey, and track at the high school.
Rothke’s third hockey coaching chapter was with the UW-Stout program. He had been an assistant coach for the UW-Stout club team for three years (1988-91), and when he retired from teaching, his good friend Terry Watkins, the UW-Stout DIII team head coach, asked him to come out and “help out with the goalies once in a while.” Watkins was one of his assistant coaches on the 1991 Championship Team. With his skates still sharp, for the next ten years Roethke was the UW-Stout goalie coach. These were some of the best years of his hockey coaching career. He tacked on another 279 games, had a lot of fun working with college players, and the buses were better.
He met a lot of good young men and their parents during that ten years and became good friends with many of them. He had the pleasure of coaching two All-American goalies and many others who made All-Conference honors. His team made it to the NCAA DIII National Tournament in 2008 and 2009. The 2009 team made it to the Final 4 in Lake Placid, NY, the site of the Olympic games that he watched as a Squirt and Midget youth hockey coach in 1980.
Roethke finally retired from coaching hockey for the last time in 2011 at the age of 70, after 40 years of coaching Mite players through college players in over 1,000 games. What an experience it was!