Allison Micheletti, Rachel Ramsey and Casey Hirsch have taken lessons taught by their hockey-playing fathers and turned them into Division I scholarships. Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
Casey Hirsch always sensed her father, Tom, knew more about hockey than other dads. And there were times when she saw proof via the postal service.
Casey said her father, a defenseman for the Gophers, the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and the North Stars, "used to open the mail and [trading] cards would fall out" from autograph seekers. Years later, Hirsch would receive her own hockey-related correspondence – from colleges.
Now a forward at Maple Grove, Hirsch has committed to play hockey at Syracuse. Two other players with strong paternal hockey bloodlines, Rosemount forward Allison Micheletti and Minnetonka defenseman Rachel Ramsey, are bound for Providence and Minnesota, respectively.
Micheletti's father, Don, scored 36 goals for the Gophers' 1979 NCAA championship team. Her uncles, Joe and Pat, also starred for the maroon and gold. Ramsey's father, Mike, played for the Gophers before winning an Olympic gold medal in 1980 and then spending 30 years in the NHL as a player and assistant coach.
"It's always a good icebreaker," Allison Micheletti said of her surname. "I'll run into old hockey families and referees who ask if I'm related. It's been a nice thing to have a little history behind you."
Figure skates and frozen ponds
The girls' hockey histories share similarities. Both Hirsch and Ramsey grew up playing with boys – Hirsch on frozen neighborhood ponds in Maple Grove and Ramsey in upstate New York. Intrigued by the sparkling dresses she saw on television, Micheletti first aspired to be a figure skater.
"But once I got out there, I just wanted to beat the other girls across the rink," Micheletti said.
Her skating and speed have remained constants. Finding room to operate can be a challenge. When she needs an extra pair of eyes, she sends text messages to her father during intermission.
"He'll tell me things like, 'You have more time than you think. Use the open ice,'" Micheletti said.
With 50 points, Micheletti enjoyed a breakout junior season last year. Hirsch, her linemate on summer teams, was not so fortunate. She tore her ACL in December and was lost for all but nine games. The first doctor said Hirsch would never play again. The second doctor said a return to the ice would take nine months. The initial scare and the long hiatus reignited Hirsch's passion for hockey.
"I had to sit there and wait, and it was horrible," said Hirsch, who admitted to having a love-hate relationship with practicing. "Going through that really made me want it all more."
Now healthy, Hirsch is back to her playing big in small areas.
"Her office is behind the goal line," Tom Hirsch said. "She wheels and deals and owns the corners."
While Hirsch stands out with her heady play deep in the opponent's end of the ice, Rachel Ramsey is everywhere. A tall (6 feet) athlete with great reach, Ramsey has played forward and defense at the varsity level with equal aplomb. She is playing mostly defense this season with the green light to rush the puck at will.
The hockey environment she grew up in would make most puck chasers envious. In his eight seasons as a Wild assistant coach, Mike Ramsey often brought Rachel, her two younger siblings, Hannah and Jack, and their friends to Xcel Energy Center.
"This was the first Thanksgiving in 10 years I didn't skate at the Xcel Center," Rachel said.
Mike wanted to spend more time with his children, but those hours on the rink together built more than bonds. As Tom Hirsch said of Rachel, "She has a slapshot that rivals men."
Coach vs. Dad
All three fathers coached their daughters at some point and consider themselves their daughters' biggest fans and harshest critics. Mike Ramsey said Rachel is "getting by on talent" as a defenseman "and I'd like her to have more knowledge of the position."
Rachel, already considered by many to be on the short list of potential Ms. Hockey candidates, concurs.
"I do a lot of dumb stuff on the ice that currently I can get by with," Rachel said. "I've been blessed with height and a shot and speed, but next year I'm really going to have to get my head on straight with positioning."
But overall, the tone of hockey talk has changed from critical to conversational. The girls have become not only better players but young women. College is coming up fast, and these dads know time is short – especially Don Micheletti, who will send his only child, Allison, off to Providence next fall.
"We go to lunch, just the two of us, and talk about hockey and boys and making good choices," said Don, who has impressed Allison with his fashion sense when buying her clothes. "She is excited about hockey, but she also wants to become a veterinarian."
Hirsch said going to Syracuse means missing the constant presence of her father, who first called her "sug," as in sugar, sugey-woogey and now just woog.
"It'll be hard next year when he won't be there because he's a big part of my success," Hirsch said.
The trio of girls share pride in their fathers' legacies, yet desire to carve out distinct identities.
"There's really nothing negative that comes along with it except for the want to be able to build my own name," Rachel said. "Otherwise, it's been a blessing."
Mike Ramsey was a Wild assistant coach from 2000-01 through 2009-10. Star Tribune file photo
Tom Hirsch played for the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey team. His daughter, Casey, is a senior forward at Maple Grove. Star Tribune file photo
Don Micheletti also served as boys’ hockey coach at Rosemount.
Senior forward, Rosemount
Committed to Providence
• Father, Don, played for Hibbing and helped the Gophers win the 1979 NCAA championship.
Senior forward, Maple Grove
Committed to Syracuse
• Father, Tom, played for Minneapolis Henry, the Gophers, the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and North Stars.
Senior defenseman, Minnetonka
Committed to Gophers
• Father, Mike, played for Minneapolis Roosevelt, the Gophers, the 1980 U.S. Olympic team and spent 30 seasons in the NHL as a player and coach, mostly recently as an assistant coach with the Wild.