Mike Bartley was born to be an ice guy. He had the perfect makeup to coach winning hockey games.
No high school coach in Ohio has ever won more games than Bartley, who retired from coaching Shaker Heights High after winning the school’s fourth state title in 2013. Bartley’s final victory gave him 640, all of them with the Red Raiders for 37 seasons.
Beginning in 1976, he compiled a record of 640-346-36. His teams won state championships in four decades: 1981, 1993, 2001 and 2013. He took 10 teams to the state finals, with three of them as runner-ups in 1979, 1998 and 2005.
The Red Raiders won nine Baron Cup Tournament titles during his tenure, more than any other coach can claim for Northeast Ohio bragging rights.
But bragging rights would not be how the low-keyed Bartley would ever approach the accomplishment. It was not in his nature to put his wins above victories for the team. In his cramped office at Thornton Park, all of the Red Raiders’ team trophies and photos took the high-profile spots.
For Bartley, cozy Thornton Park was more of a classroom than rink. Throughout all the seasons, in both summer and fall outside the high school schedule, coaching younger players also played a part in the program’s success.
From mites and squirts to pee-wees and bantams, Bartley could be found going about his patient way teaching the game he loved. You could call him the minister of Thornton Park.
“It’s been sort of a ministry I’ve had in my life,” he said.
Growing up in Sarnia, Ontario, Bartley learned the game at the grass roots level like many Canadians in the junior ranks. He took his lessons to Bowling Green State University, and then played in the minor leagues.
Settling on his teaching role in elementary physical education, he took over the Shaker Heights High program during the disco era. With his trade-mark Maple Leaf tie, he weathered all the tough times and the good ones in the dedicated fashion he wanted – that of a teacher.