September 11, 2013 - Following his retirement last year after four seasons as head hockey coach for Notre Dame Prep, Oxford resident Bob Rosbury thought he would take it easy and offer a little bit of assistance to Oxford varsity team, but then his phone rang.
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"I was out in Portland, Oregon in early June and got a call from (Athletic Director) Mike Watson indicating they were looking for a new hockey coach," Rosbury said.
He accepted the position in early July after hearing former Head Coach Dave Hague, who he has known for a long time, resigned due to a job promotion and a newborn baby.
"I was set to relax for a year and help out somewhere if I could, but I think I have a lot to offer as far as coaching, teaching and mentoring young kids at the high school age," Rosbury added. "It's certainly something I have a passion for."
After 13 seniors graduated from last year's team, Rosbury said they've been left with a core of about eight players. Rosbury knows he has a long road ahead of him just to begin the season.
"Half of those (eight) guys I think have opted to pursue the sport in the travel leagues. I think the process (to hire a new coach) might have taken longer than people felt comfortable with," he said. "Hockey is the only game that we got from a school standpoint where we have viable alternative. Other sports have other leagues kids can play off-season, but hockey has the in-season options, which is tough hurdle and always has been."
Many players have opted to play hockey in the Triple A leagues because they think it will give them greater exposure to help them "advance to the next level," but according to Rosbury, high school hockey has come a long way.
"I've kept my eye on the progress that Coach Hague had made over the past three or four years with the average 15 wins a season (over) the past four years and their overall ranking in the state of Michigan has gone up 30 places in that time frame," he said. "They (have) got a nice core if we have those eight guys come back and I'm still hopeful they will return."
Though Rosbury has talked with the parents and the players and wants to see them return, he doesn't believe in begging anybody to play for Oxford.
"Maybe that's a bad thing, but I want people who want to play for Oxford High School. I want them to have passion for competing for their school," he added. "I am hopeful we can get those guys back and I certainly want to indicate to them, and have indicated to them, that they're welcome. They are the leaders and they are the ones that need to be carrying this team forward."
"I'm hoping once these guys get back to school they can help recruit some of their classmates, opening the door for some kids who may have been cut in the past for another opportunity," he continued. "The numbers are such that maybe that's a good situation for some guys to get a year or two of experience that otherwise they may not have had."
Rosbury said he is making it his mission to know every hockey player that resides in Oxford. He plans on talking to students that are in the middle school who play hockey, so he can keep tabs on them and they can know who he is. '
"I am hoping we can continue to create the momentum with the Oxford program and continue to rise in the ranks of the high school teams, so it's a viable option for them," he said. "That's really the message I want to get out is you don't need to leave the high school game. If Oxford was playing the bottom third of high school teams in the state of Michigan, yeah, I might agree with you, but we're not. The schedule . . . will be extremely competitive."
Like Hague, Rosbury plans to continue giving Oxford's players memorable opportunities such as playing at Michigan State University's Munn Arena and the University of Michigan's Yost Arena.
"We got a once-in-a-lifetime (opportunity) this December in that we have a game against Lake Orion, which will be played at Comerica Park on Thursday, Dec. 19 as part of the Winter Classic festivities. The game will start at 3:30 p.m., he said. "I'm hoping Oxford shuts down and every kid that goes to school here and every person that lives here shows up at Comerica Park to support us. That's an opportunity for a young kid to have (a great memory) for a lifetime."
Rosbury said he's assembled a couple guys to help the team this year who have contacts in the upper levels of hockey.
"They are great gentlemen," he added. "People you want your kids exposed, too and people who have done it."
As far as his coaching philosophy goes, Rosbury strongly believes in "unselfish commitment to team."
"I'm a team guy and that's the way we try to coach it and keep the emphasis on our team. I want our individual guys that have ability to help our other guys get better," he said. "It's not about their stats, their points. I don't care and I don't publish results like that. We push guys hard for honors at the end of the season. It's a lot easier to do that when you've had team success."
In 29 years of coaching hockey (13 at the high school level), Rosbury has seen experienced much success. As an assistant coach at Dearborn Divine Child and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, his teams had seven final-four appearances in nine years, two finals appearances and one state championship.
"I want to win a state championship for Oxford High School, but first, we (have) got to learn how to win in playoffs. We have one victory . . . in 12 years of high school hockey," he said. "I want to set some realistic expectations and one of our goals is to win a regional championship this year."
Rosbury believes in success in the classroom as well as on the ice. He wants his team to earn All-State-Academics.
"We're in it for the kids. The great thing about coaching high school athletics is it is student athletes. The emphasis will be academics first. The travel leagues don't emphasize that and the junior leagues don't emphasize that," he said. "You need a foundation. Most of our kids that play high school hockey are exactly where they need to be. Those that rise to the top (and) get that opportunity to play (at an upper level) take with them a foundation from an educational standpoint."
While he hasn't coached any professional players, he is proud that he coached a couple good players who reached the Division III College level.
"These guys were diehard and passionate about hockey and worked hard," Rosbury said.
"From high school hockey to D3 there (are) so many different levels," he continued. "You (have) got an opportunity as your going forward in the game, you got to prove it everyday because if somebody comes along that's a little bit better than you, you're done. That's how cutthroat it can be."
Rosbury understands it first hand. Having grown up playing in the Detroit Metropolitan Travel Hockey league and getting to be a national tournament participant for the Dearborn Midget league in 1972, he decided to try for the OHL Sooo Greyhound team, which is a Junior A team.
"I tried out prior to my senior year of high school and it lasted four days in the training camp. That was a great experience," he said. "I was a pretty good player, but not that good and that helped me basically understand that, too."
However, he doesn't believe many kids really understand what it takes to get to the next level and how tough it can be.
"I am very passionate about kids understanding that process. I think there are too many kids that think it comes easy and they deserve it. You don't deserve anything. You earn it and put the hard work in," he said. "It's not all about talk. It's about doing it and that's what we're here to teach."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.