ESCANABA - Calling it "a tough decision," Escanaba Eskymos hockey coach Tim McCarthy reluctantly handed in his resignation Wednesday.
McCarthy cited the competing demands of being a head hockey coach and simultaneously running a successful business as a key reason for leaving the program.
"It was a tough decision to make. I've been around hockey since 1988 as far as coaching goes. It's just one of those things," McCarthy said Wednesday afternoon. "I enjoyed the heck out of it but all of us have full time jobs. As the years went on, my job got a little more stressful, there was more on my plate. I guess I didn't have as much time as I felt was needed for the head coaching job."
McCarthy's resignation comes after the program compiled the best season in school history. The team went 24-4 last season and made an appearance in the regional final, falling 2-1 to Saginaw Heritage.
In two seasons as Eskymos coach, McCarthy was 37-17-1, a winning percentage of .672 which is far and away the best the program has enjoyed. He is only the second coach in team history to leave the program with a winning record. The program has an all-time mark of 291-392-32.
However, as athletic director Dave Wilson said, coaching the team was more than just wins and losses.
"Tim McCarthy is the best hockey coach we've ever had in the history of the program," he said Wednesday. "You look at what the school district wanted him to do, take care of the kids, he did it better than anyone. You have to realize it was about more than winning and losing, but taking care of kids.
"He was exactly what an athletic administrator wants. Making kids accountable for academics, and in the community - at Christmas they worked with St. Vincent DePaul. They worked at the Thanksgiving dinner at the school. He had them working on and off the ice. It will be difficult to replace that. It's a sad day for Eskymo hockey."
McCarthy was satisfied with what he had accomplished with the program in a short amount of time.
"It's a good team and I see nothing but good things for them in the future," he said. "Dave Wilson got a lot of calls from teams in lower Michigan that want to play us. We had a respectable showing in the MIchigan Public School Showcase (The team went 3-0) and the kids earned a lot of respect We also have Houghton and Hancock joining the Great Lakes Conference and that's huge. Now you are guaranteed 16 games of great competition.
"There's a real young team to build on, having only lost four players (to graduation). I really enjoyed my time there and the time I spent with the kids. It was really a joy, and coming out of the year we did, it was great for the program."
McCarthy went on to explain why it was important that his team got involved in the community.
"There's so much the community has done to help us and we gave back as much as we could to the community. We helped out at Thanksgiving dinner at the high school, gave out gift packages for Christmas, the kids got involved with pickup at the Bark River Offroad Races. It was good to get them out there and get them in front of people. The community has given a lot to the Blue Line Club and it was good for the community to see them. I'm sure whoever takes over, would continue to do that. It's a self-funded sport and we look to the community to help out and support us. We had some record crowds this year and it's awesome to see people get behind the team and help out."
McCarthy said the dual pressure of being a head hockey coach and running a business at Northern Machine simply got to be too much, to the point that it was affecting his health.
"I'm one of those worrywarts that tries to do everything. You look at that, and you have to keep your health good and stay on top of that. When you burn the candle at both ends, you're eventually going to falter. Dave Wilson and I had some long talks," he said.
"I'm on the road a ton with my job. We manage crews in Wisconsin, lower Michigan and as far as Eire, Penn. Business is very good and growing and with that also comes the demands of your customers. I tried to balance that. The first year wasn't so bad, but this year it was more difficult. I certainly enjoyed what I did, but I can't shortchange my job and certainly I don't want to shortchange the high school program by not giving enough time."
McCarthy wasn't sure if his assistants such as John Keepers and John Hendrickson would remain with the program, but he felt confident a suitable coach would be found.
"I'm very hopeful they can find someone who can devote a little more time. Having been a coach in junior hockey and an assistant, head coaching is more demanding as far as talking to the media and helping out at events. It really cut into my full time job and I didn't realize how demanding it would be," he said.
"I hate to leave, but it's early enough. It's April and I'm sure they'll find someone who will step in and do a great job."