Denny Bray has retired as head coach of the Austin girls hockey team. Bray led the squad to three state tournaments in 16 seasons. -- Rocky Hulne/
Denny Bray has retired as head coach of the Austin girls hockey team. Bray led the squad to three state tournaments in 16 seasons. -- Rocky Hulne/

Bray retires after 16 years with Packer girls hockey team

Published 7:18pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For the past 16 years the Austin girls hockey team has been under the guidance of Denny Bray, but that will come to an end this year as Bray has retired as head coach of the Packers.

Bray virtually started the girls hockey program from scratch as the team existed for just one year before he took over at the helm.

The Packers went to three state tournaments under Bray’s tenure and that first state tournament came in 2000, just four years after Bray took over.

“There were a lot of new skaters. But we had a good nucleus started,” Bray said. “The girls worked really hard and they had a dream that by the time (goalie) Katie Fedoryk was a senior, they were going to go to state.”

That Packer team went to state by beating Lakeville North on an overtime goal by Bobbi Jo Lang.

“That was awesome,” Bray said. “I’ll never forget that.”

The Packers went 25-5 and went to state in 2007 under Bray and they surprised people by taking fourth in state in 2008, even after they had graduated eight players from the 2007 team.

Bray, who was named Section 1A coach of the year three times and Big Nine coach of the year once, finished with a career record of 215-193-7 overall.

When he first applied for the coaching job, he wasn’t sure what to expect as he had been coaching youth boys hockey and wasn’t sure how it would work out with coaching girls.

Bray found his groove soon enough and he had plenty of positive experiences over the years with the Packers.

“I was having fun. The years went real fast,” Bray said.

The Packers struggled with numbers over the past couple of seasons, which made it hard for Austin to compete with schools that offer year-round ice. Bray considered retiring two years ago, but he decided to stick it out until all of the members of his 2008 state team had graduated.

“I’ve been thinking about it for two years,” Bray said. “Kennedy Thompson and Carley Grunewald were on the last state team and they always told me not to retire until they were done. That was always in the back of my mind.”

Bray hopes to spend a lot more time with his family now that his nights will be free in the winter.

“It was getting to be too much and I missed so many things with my kids,” he said. “I told my family I wasn’t going to miss out on the grandkids.”

This winter the Packers will turn to first-year girls head hockey coach Brett Vesel.

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