By Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
This was not the start 67-year-old Bill Sunagel had in mind.
The new head coach of the Sheboygan co-op hockey team sustained an upper-body injury the first day of practice.
“I got run over by one of my players in a drill and I broke four ribs,” he said.
Sunagel was on the ice overseeing a speed drill Nov. 11 when a player lost his edge and ran into his new coach.
“It just all of a sudden happened,” said North junior Ty Petzke.
Sunagel says he landed on his head and shoulder, and the injury could have been worse.
“Thank God I had my helmet on,” he said. “I don’t recall being out (cold). One of my assistants (his son, Bill) said he thought I was out, but it was only for a few seconds according to him.
“I was a little shocked, to say the least. But all’s good. I’ll be back on the ice in about three to four weeks. I’ll be running practices from the bench.”
He was not on the bench for the first week, however, as he told his assistants what to do at practice.
“Things have been running smoothly,” he said.
And no, Sunagel does not have any regrets replacing Joe Reinhart as coach.
“I enjoy the game, I’ve been involved with it basically my whole life, so … it’s a good way to do something during my retirement that’s constructive,” Sunagel said. “Everything’s good. Wife’s happy. Gets me out of the house, out of her hair.”
Sunagel coached hockey teams for 39 years in Illinois but moved to Fond du Lac in June of 2018 to be closer to his son – whose wife is from Plymouth – and three grandchildren.
He thought he was done coaching but was asked by Reinhart to join the team last season as an assistant in charge of the special teams.
One year later, he is a head coach again and will be on the bench for Sheboygan’s first game, Friday against Appleton.
He says he hopes to have a winning season and is focused on trying to win the conference despite knowing the Red Raiders have struggled in years’ past.
“We have the talent and I think we can make that goal,” said Sunagel, who also hopes to win a playoff game for the first time. “We have high aspirations, let’s put it that way.”
One of the reasons for optimism is a young and fast core of defensemen that has just one senior, so the group will be able to mesh this year and next.
“I’m very excited about the defensemen we have on this team,” Sunagel said. “They move the puck well, get the puck up ice quickly and they’re sound defensively in the defensive zone. That’s a big plus. So we have a good core on the ‘D.’”
Petzke is one of the defensemen, and he also feels the team can accomplish a lot.
“If we work together, I think we can beat any team in the conference and the state,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good skills, and if we can do the best to our ability, we can be great.”