Walk down the hallway near the gymnasium at Mankato East, and you’ll find John Coatta’s picture among others in a display of that school’s athletics hall of fame.
Walk down the hallway near the offices of the Don Brose Training Center at the Verizon Center, and you’ll find Max Coatta’s picture in a display of the Minnesota State men’s hockey team’s hardest workers.
“I’d definitely say I get my work ethic and competitiveness from my dad,” said Max, a senior forward for the Mavericks. “Work ethic is probably the biggest thing he taught me and my brother.”
John Coatta played three sports at East — football, basketball and baseball (there was no high school hockey then) — in the 1970s, while his father, John Coatta Sr., was the head football coach at then-Mankato State.
“I sometimes run into some people who knew my dad,” said Max, who grew up in Minnetonka. “He has two brothers, too, and people always talk about how good of athletes the three were. ... He’s still a good athlete.”
As a third- or fourth-liner whose main roles are often more defensive than offensive, Max Coatta probably won’t be an MSU hall of famer, but as the 11th-ranked Mavericks prepare to open the season tonight against No. 8 Boston University, he’s as valued as any player on the team.
That’s why his teammates picked him as Minnesota State’s hardest worker the last two years and elected him as captain for the second year in a row.
“He plays an honest game,” junior defenseman Edwin Hookenson said. “He’s probably the hardest-working guy on the team. He can be a vocal leader, but he really leads by example.
"He was the hardest-working guy all summer. He was the obvious leader of the team right from the start of the summer.”
Coatta wore a “C” on his jersey last season, as did C.J. Suess. However, Suess got the bulk of the attention in a season in which he led the Mavericks in scoring and was named WCHA Player of the Year.
Suess is gone now, and Coatta is once again sharing captain’s duties — this time with juniors Marc Michaelis and Nick Rivera — but he is one of just three returning seniors on the roster and the only one of that group who's played regularly over the last three seasons.
“I think C.J. was probably our main leader last year, and I kind of view that out of myself this year, just kind of stepping up in that regard,” Coatta said. “But I’ve got two other great captains helping me out this year. Even other guys that aren’t wearing a letter, we’ve got some good leadership on this team. Everybody pulls a piece of the rope.”
Coatta has played in 115 career games for Minnesota State and has 37 points, including 16 goals. He had five goals and 11 points last season and would like to see that production go up a bit, especially with the departure of Suess, Zeb Knutson and Brad McClure, who had a combined 48 goals and 107 points a year ago. But he also knows that’s not necessarily his main function.
“Whatever I can do to help the team win, whatever I can do to contribute,” he said. “I think I play hard, play with speed; I think I’m hard to play against.
"Something I want to improve on is getting more shots. I’m confident in my shot; I think I can offer more offensively with that — but not by changing anything on the (defensive) side.”
Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said players and coaches alike have a great deal of trust in Coatta as a team leader on and off the ice.
“He takes what he learns and applies it and learns from it again,” Hastings said. “His decision-making process is as trusted as anything else.
"He has the pulse of our group. He is a voice of reason. The young man is impressive.”
And it’s not hard to see where that all comes from, the coach added.
“I’m a big believer that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Hastings said. “He comes from a great family, really good people.”