Gosek takes pride in hometown’s ice hockey tradition

Men’s ice hockey head coach Ed Gosek lives by the belief that a person should give back to the community where he or she grew up.

A native Oswegonian, Gosek was the youngest of four children to a Oswego fireman and stay-at-home mother.

He was taught good values growing up, including how to treat people, which he has carried on throughout his life.

Growing up, Gosek played his minor and high school hockey in Oswego before heading to North Country Community College for the 1979-1980 season.

After one year up at Saranac Lake, he returned home to finish his collegiate career for Oswego State under head coach Don Unger.

Before coming to join Unger’s staff in 1990, Gosek started as a coach in Oswego minor hockey.

Gosek was originally unsure if he would ever want to coach, but once he started he was successful, winning four state titles with Oswego minors.

As an assistant at Oswego State, he started a 13-year tenure with six years under Unger and finished with seven years under George Rolls.

While working under Rolls, their two families developed a friendship that has outlasted their time as coworkers.

Rolls, Gosek, their wives and their daughters are all the same age and, in fact, their daughters are roommates at Nazareth College in Rochester where Rolls coaches now.

In 2003, Gosek took over as head coach and since then the Lakers have made the postseason every single season, including five NCAA tournament appearances.

While Gosek’s squads are famous for their success on the ice, the Oswego State head coach is also well known for what he and his players do off the ice.

The Lakers are involved with the Make-A-Wish foundation, Team Impact, Oswego minor hockey, working with the elderly in the community and helping alumni whenever they need it.

This tradition of giving back has been in place since the program’s beginnings in the late 1960s and Gosek continues it because he understands the importance.

“I think it’s a common theme here that Oswego’s a hockey community and so the community gives you great support,” Gosek said. “In the long run, those relationships with people in the community and what it means to the community, we take that very seriously.”

Oswego State assistant coach Mark Digby commends his colleague and “mentor” for keeping the team so involved in the Oswego community.

“In this day and age, when there’s so much going on with kids having five sports they play and all the different school and community things they do, he’s been able to keep the program in forefront of the community,” Digby said. “Which I think is really important because this community has always been involved in the team.”

The growth of ovarian cancer awareness is a cause Gosek has become involved in because of the personal impact it has had in his family.

With his wife Mary battling the disease last year and now understanding the toll that it can take on a family, Gosek does not want others to have to have a similar experience.

“The support of the college and the support of the hockey staff last year when Mary was going through a hard time, with the surgery first, and then all the treatments and all the follow up, starting from the top of our college, it certainly helps when you have the support of everyone,” Gosek said.

“Then when you’re fortunate enough to get through that with the support of many great people, you want to try to help other people so that they do not  have to go through that.”

Gosek also realizes that the public is not as familiar with some forms of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, and wants to change that because everyone is affected by cancer in some way.

“With ovarian cancer, it’s more about trying to raise awareness amongst all our student population, especially the females on campus, and then spread that throughout the community,” Gosek said.

“Breast cancer has done a wonderful thing with all the pink stuff, but there are many other cancers that we want to make sure everyone has awareness. It’s not always about giving financially but giving awareness.”

The third pillar of Gosek’s off-ice philosophy, along with charity work and service, is academics.

The men’s ice hockey team has won the award for top grade point average among the sports teams on campus several times.

“It’s a priority for me to bring in the best student-athletes we can,” Gosek said. “There’s probably more rules in place for academics than there are for the mistakes being graded on the ice. It has to be hand-in-hand. We expect them to sacrifice and be dedicated on the ice, so they have to sacrifice and be dedicated off the ice.”

Gosek understands that if his players do not take their academics seriously and work hard in the classroom, then the school will not come out to support them on Friday and Saturday nights.

“If they walk around campus acting like they’re better than everyone else there are going to be few students who want to support them,” Gosek said.

“If they go to class with an air about them, that they think they’re above what the teacher is expecting and think they deserve special treatment, then that’s wrong. They should be respectful. They should be humble. They should be there to learn just like any other student.”

The focus he has on his players stems from a belief he and his wife share about how they should treat the athletes on the men’s ice hockey team while they’re here in Oswego.

“People think we’re crazy for how we get involved, but we think it’s important,” Gosek said. “Every parent wants what’s best for their own kid. When we develop relationships with them we’re trying to make them good students, athletes and people while they’re here.

Lakers junior Eli Kim-Swallow is grateful for the way the Goseks have treated the players, himself included.

“With Coach Gosek and his wife Mary, their family being so strong, you see someone behind your bench being so strong with something outside of hockey; it translates into his coaching as he’s a passionate guy and a passionate coach to this team it was something that we all looked up to and still look up to,” Kim-Swallow said.

“He and Mary are very important to us. It’s a family for us. So them being strong makes us stronger and vice versa I feel.”

Being from the Oswego community, Gosek knows well the tradition of the men’s ice hockey program and is proud to be a part of it.

“For me, it was a chance to carry on tradition, more so as a care taker,” Gosek said. “It’s my turn to keep the program going in a positive direction. I hope my legacy’s not just  winning a national championship and being in the top of the national rankings for winning percentage. I hope it’s more that the players were good people. They carry on the values we set place here in their own lives, proud to be alums.”