It's no secret that longtime Duluth News Tribune scribe and UMD men's hockey guy Kevin Pates is hanging it up. He announced it about a year ago, I believe, and Monday is his last day at the paper.
Kevin worked at the DNT for three and a half decades, spending more than half his time covering UMD hockey. For anyone in the sports media business in this town, UMD hockey is the big deal. No disrespect is intended to any other beat we have around here, but nothing that happens packs the punch the Bulldogs do.
Whether it was Mike Sertich's heyday or Scott Sandelin's tenure (which has, of course, included the school's first -- and so far only -- Division I men's national championship), Pates has seen so much with the UMD program that it is impossible to lay it all out in one blog post.
For the last eight years, I've gotten to know Pates' quirks -- as he has mine. We've been travel partners for UMD road series, at least the ones that are a driving distance. Sometimes I drive, sometimes he drives. No matter what, there weren't a lot of dull moments.
When you travel with someone on these types of trips, one of the challenges becomes to keep each other awake during the Saturday night/Sunday morning trip home after the series finale. Sometimes, it's making fun of whatever can be found on the radio (Coast to Coast was always a favorite, but we found different things to pick apart, including some hideous play by play). Sometimes, it's hashing out what we just saw on the ice. Others, it's (mainly Kevin) telling stories from the unbelievable career he's had. Sometimes, it's a combination of those things.
But we never ended up in a ditch because the driver fell asleep.
Of course, there was that time we almost ended up in a ditch because the road was covered with ice of a better quality than what UMD and Bemidji State played on that particular night at John Glas Fieldhouse.
Here's my short account of the ordeal. It was short because Kevin wrote it up like it was a news story, as if anyone gave a crap what happened to us. It'll never be forgotten, and it was certainly a topic of discussion any time the weather got dicey during future road trips, or any time we went to Bemidji, even in good weather.
On this day, Patesy retires. He'll soon move to Sun City, Ariz., where I'm guessing he won't ever have to again worry about spinning into the wrong lane of a two-way road because he drove into a patch of glaze ice during a freak freezing rain storm.
However the DNT goes about replacing Kevin, know that it will never replace Kevin. His hard work and exceptional fairness toward everything and everyone he ever covered will be missed in this town.