By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tom and Greg Vannelli are connected by hockey, and by blood.

They co-coached St Thomas Academy’s hockey team for years, but this season will be their last.

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Part of their initial interview at STA, there was concern that the brothers may disagree.

“They said, ‘What are you going to do if there’s a disappointment?’ I said, ‘Well, he’s older [laughs]!’” Tom said. “We’ve never really had a serious dispute.”

Maybe that’s why it’s worked so well. They won five state championships and, well, just won a lot every season.

“You need to see how when kids come together as a team what they can accomplish, so Tom and I worked hard at setting that model and bar high. When things started getting really successful it was exciting to see,” Greg said.

But to be able to do it together, with sons and nephews brought in to help, is something unique.

Greg and Tom Vannelli (credit: CBS)

“I think the combination of working with family and kids that aspire to be great. I mean, it’s just amazing the character that they have coming down from the academics in the school, the stress that that has,” Tom said,

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And it doesn’t hurt when you are successful. They even took a risk during their tenure. Dominant in Class A, they decided to move up to AA, and competed every year at a high level.

“I think it’s always good to challenge yourself to the highest level you can, and I think … we’re finding out that we made the right decision,” Greg said. “We’ve been to three state tournaments out of five years, and I think our record is 6 and 2 at state tournament, so I think we’ve proven that that decision was the right thing to do.”

But there comes a time when you know the time has come. It’s just a feeling more than anything else.

“It has been a while,” Greg said. “When you include the fact that we coached our kids growing up for eight years or whatever, then we were both at other high schools before this, it’s almost like 30 years now. So, yeah, I think it’s a good time.”

It doesn’t mean they are done coaching. The generations of Vannellis tend to gravitate to playing hockey.

“We’re going to take a step back, and I got some grandkids that I want to see come up, get them going,” Tom said. “And who knows, maybe I’ll be coaching … them some day.”

And you want to get out to see what else might be out there, in these Minnesota winter months.

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“We still, I think, have enough energy to do something else too in life, so I’m excited about that, too,” Greg said.

Mike Max