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Farmington native Barger enters MHCA Hall of Fame

Farmington native John Barger was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame at a banquet March 7 at the River Centre Grand Ballroom in St. Paul.

Barger was born and raised in Farmington. His family moved to Hallock before his senior year of high school in 1970 and he continued his hockey career at Mankato State. He started his 28-year coaching career at Northfield High School in 1977 and spent 26 years as a head coach, with 19 of those years at Jamestown, N.D., St. Louis Park and Burnsville. Barger also coached at Brainerd, Austin and New Prague.

Barger's teams won four conference championships, were conference runners-up seven times, including three times to Edina while at St. Louis Park. Barger's teams also participated in four state tournaments in five years while in North Dakota. He won numerous Coach of the Year honors, including two from the MHCA.

"It's extremely humbling to be honored. When I got the call I didn't even know what to say," Barger said. "It's really a tremendous honor when you look at the coaches who have gone in ahead of you."

One coach in particular inspired Barger at a young age. Louie Schmitz convinced Barger to choose hockey over basketball as a freshman and influenced him both as a player and a coach.

"Louie was really instrumental in getting me involved in hockey. My dad was an all-state basketball player at Farmington and we had five brothers who all played hockey. He was really encouraging and would tell me to come over to hockey after basketball practice and I ended up choosing hockey," Barger said. "As a coach, I think Louie always presented that you always work as hard as you can and play as hard as you can and that's all he really asked of you.... He did everything from funding the rinks, coaching four teams at a time to running everybody's kids all over the city -- and he did it for football and baseball, too."

Continuing Schmitz's legacy inspired Barger to get involved in putting together the Louie Schmitz Foundation Golf Tournament, which will be held once again June 21 at Fountain Valley Golf Course. The event funds scholarships for Farmington High School students and helps provide equipment for youth sports teams.

"(Schmitz) did so much for kids," Barger said. "He really was the face of youth sports before it was organized like it is today."

Barger, who now lives in Lakeville, has followed in Schmitz's footsteps by staying involved with hockey in several ways. He served on the Minnesota High School Hockey Coaches executive board for 14 years, worked the Minnesota Select program in the summers and coached high school all-star games in both Minnesota and North Dakota. He directs a holiday classic tournament in St. Louis Park, a high school fall league and summer development clinics that draw many of Minnesota's best players and teams.