Family Affair

It’s not exactly The Brotherhood of Poland, [nl]New Hampshire, but the Gosek family has a similar relationship to the small cold-weather city of Oswego, N.Y., albeit not as offbeat and depressing.

Mention the name Gosek to the locals in Oswego, and they’ll probably start by saying, “Oh, Mayor John J. Gosek.”

Tell them you’re talking about sports, and it’s, “Oh, of course, Joe Gosek. Yeah, we watch him all the time. Did you know he’s sixth on the all-time win list at Oswego Speedway? He’s last year’s supermodified track champion. He was in the Indianapolis 500 back in 1996.”

Now, tell them you are talking about hockey.

“Oh, why didn’t you say so? Ed Gosek. The assistant coach at Oswego State for 13 years.”

It’s not Ed’s fault that the locals think of his cousin the mayor, or his brother the racer before they think of him. They’ve been in the spotlight for so long.

Now, it’s Ed Gosek’s turn.

Gosek took over the reins of the proud Lakers program this season after George Roll accepted the head coaching job at Clarkson.

How does Gosek feel about finally being in the spotlight?

He answers modestly. “It’s something early on in my career you always want to be a head coach. And as you get a little older and you develop relationships with George Roll, and Don Unger before that, you kind of get over the ego. I was perfectly happy, to be honest, being an assistant. It worked out that George got the job at Clarkson and things opened up at Oswego, and I was grateful for the opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity that seems to be a perfect match for Gosek. The Gosek family and Oswego go together.

Ed Gosek grew up in Oswego playing hockey. After attending North Country Community College in Lake Placid, he returned to the small city on the southeast shore of Lake Ontario to play his remaining three years at Oswego State, graduating in 1983 with a B.S. degree. He got his masters degree in 2001, also from Oswego State. His wife, Mary, works for the college. They are now raising their children, Jeremy and Sarah, in Oswego.

Gosek considers Oswego the perfect place to live. “Being a small community, everybody knows one another. It’s a pretty nice place to live,” he says. Though, he does admit, “Winters are awful, as we all know, in Central New York. It makes us enjoy the summers more, and the spring and fall.”

Which means winters in Oswego are all about Lakers hockey. “I think it’s a great college community, unlike the larger campuses,” says Gosek. “Eight thousand students and roughly 20,000 people in the city coexist pretty nicely.

“There’s always been a good give and take. The community realizes the importance of a college team here, and the college appreciates what the city has to offer. Hockey-wise, we have a good mix of community support and college support. It’s not where some programs are just college kids or the opposite, just town people coming. We have a real good mix.”

When his playing days were over, Gosek turned to coaching. He won four New York State titles with the Oswego Minor Hockey Association, coached the Central New York Empire State team to all three medals, and coached the New York Select teams at the USA Hockey Select festivals in Minnesota. He became the assistant coach at Oswego State in 1990.

“Between the minor hockey and the high school program and the college, obviously I have strong feelings towards the school, and I guess that’s why I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t want to see the program slip. It’s taken a long time to get it back to where it should be, but there’s no guarantees.

“You have to do the right things, bring in the right type of kids, not just ability-wise, but attitude. They have to fit in what we believe in, more of a blue-collar work ethic.”

What was the transition like? “I was worried about the transition dealing with the players. You would pick and choose what to tell the head coach from what the players tell you. I was a firm believer not bothering George of all the little nitpicking things players tell you. I guess presently, dealing with the players, you have to be a little firmer.”

Of course, there is extra attention coaching in a place like Oswego. “There’s a lot of pressure within a small community that is here in Oswego. A lot of people that have known me for a long time obviously want to see me be successful, but at the same time they want to see the program continue.

“There is pressure there.”

On top of that, he takes over a program that made it to the national championship game a season ago.

“Obviously,” he says, “last year was a pretty awesome experience getting to the finals. We need to be competitive to be able to attract better student-athletes and keep us going in the right direction and staying in the national spotlight — which certainly helps in our recruiting and helps our college in other ways.

Adds Gosek, “I’m proud to try and keep it going. If anything, I put more pressure on myself.”

His first year started out the way most hoped at 9-0-3. Lately, however, he has seen the fickle nature of sports, losing five of the past six, three of those one-goal games.

Gosek is under no illusions. “I’ve proven nothing,” he admits. “I’ve been an assistant for 13 years and enjoyed it and enjoyed the opportunity to learn from both coaches. Two extremes, Donny Unger and George — one very offensive-minded, one defensive-minded. Both good people to me. Both gave me great opportunities, and I appreciate what they did for me. I would like to put my own stamp on the program, and hopefully it will be a successful one.”

So he’s getting his chance in the spotlight at his alma mater, able to continue living in his favorite community. How much better can it get?

How about being the coach to lead the program into the brand-new arena which recently broke ground?

The new venue will not only be the finest arena in the SUNYAC, it will be arguably one of the finest Division III arenas in the country, and better than many Division I arenas. It will rival, if not surpass, Kenyon Arena at Middlebury.

Seating for 2,600 will be horseshoe-shaped around the rink with room for an additional 1,000 in standing room. Two press centers, one for radio and one for other media. Four luxury boxes, two TV towers, and all the other amenities one would expect in such a design, all by the same architectural firm handling Boston University’s new arena.

Perhaps the best feature will be the view — not of the rink, but the lake. The rink will be built on the edge of the main Oswego State campus, and right on the shoreline. A huge picture window on the upper level will allow visitors to look out not just on Lake Ontario, but down on Lake Ontario.

It is set to debut sometime during the 2005-06 season, depending on how weather affects the construction schedule.

“[There’s] a lot of excitement with the new facility by both the college and the local community,” Gosek said. “So, we’re really looking forward to it. Obviously, the new facility is going to help bring in kids we wouldn’t have a chance at before. It should be an exciting time.

“Time will tell how that success pans out. We can talk in a couple of years and judge that a little bit better. Right now I’m enjoying it and grateful for every day that I have the opportunity to be involved with the program. I’ll do my best.”

The next time you are in Oswego, you may be under the watchful eyes of a Gosek, and if it is the summertime, you may be watching a Gosek race to victory, but during the winter, make no mistake about it — Ed Gosek is the one in the spotlight.