Oak Moser has spent lots of time on the ice with Tomah/Sparta high school boys hockey coach Todd Kirschbaum.
“One of his favorite quotes about the game of hockey is: ‘forecheck + back check = pay check,’” said Moser, who has known Kirschbaum for 20 years, 10 of which were spent as an assistant coach. “What it means is that if you work hard at the game and put in the effort, you will be rewarded with playing time and success on the ice.”
That approach has served Kirschbaum well for 23 seasons as varsity head coach.
Kirschbaum, who has coached six Mississippi Valley Conference champions and led the 2006-07 squad to the semifinals of the WIAA state hockey tournament, picked up his 300th career victory Saturday, and his skaters couldn’t have delivered the milestone in a more emphatic fashion.
Victory number 300 was:
- An 8-0 triumph over Monroe.
- Tomah’s eighth straight win.
- Tomah’s 13th straight contest without a loss (includes a tie).
- Played at Tomah Ice Center.
Kirschbaum was honored with a brief ceremony and plaque afterward. He gave all the credit to the players.
“I don’t win any games; the kids win games,” Kirschbaum said. “It’s longevity. It just says the kids have done a good job over the years that I’ve been here.”
There was no guarantee two months ago that the milestone would be reached during the 2018-19 season. He began the season with 284 victories, but Tomah had won just 16 games over the past three seasons and was one of the last schools in the area to form a co-op arrangement. The Timberwolves finally joined the merger trend this season, and the new co-op with Sparta produced instant results.
The infusion of talent from Sparta, combined with last year’s very young team getting a year older and wiser, has produced a 16-3-1 record through Saturday. Kirschbaum is proud of the seamless transition between the two schools.
“It has been great,” Kirschbaum said. “I don’t know how it could have been better, and it’s not just the whole won-loss thing. The kids get along really well, and I’ve enjoyed learning new people.”
Tomah Area School District activities director Tom Curran said the program was fortunate to have an experienced coach in place to guide the transition.
“He has led the transition in every way, shape and form,” Curran said. “He was ready to take on the opportunity to bring those kids into the fold. He took the bull by horns and just went with it.”
Curran said Kirschbaum’s approach to the new co-op didn’t surprise him.
“Todd is just so dedicated to whatever he does, whether it’s his teaching position at the middle school,” Curran said. “He’s an excellent role model for our kids, and he’s very deserving of all this recognition.”
Moser sees those same traits.
“Todd’s approach to coaching and the game never falters,” said Moser, now the head coach of the Black River Falls/Tomah girls team. “His consistency and commitment are two traits that have made him very successful ... he has not drifted from the values that drive his behavior or hard work, respect and competitiveness.”
Kirschbaum isn’t certain how much longer he intends to coach, although he did give Tomah and Sparta a commitment of at least two seasons to get the co-op off the ground.
“I enjoy doing it,” he said. “This year it has been a lot of fun. We’re winning, and that helps, but the fun is because of the kids and attitude. I like working with kids. I’d rather do this than work with adults all the time.”