ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Garrett Raboin has been paying for a season ticket to St. Cloud State men's hockey games since he left the Huskies as an assistant coach to take a similar position at the University of Minnesota.
It is his way of helping support the program where he was a walk-on defenseman, who went on to become a two-year captain and then spent six seasons (2012-18) as an assistant coach.
During all of his time at St. Cloud State, one of the constants around the team was Mack Motzko, the son of former Huskies head coach Bob Motzko. Mack died after suffering injuries from a car accident on July 24. He was 20 years old.
This fall, Raboin had conversations with Huskies athletic trainer Bryan DeMaine, Jeremiah Minkel, the team's longtime equipment manager, and Matt Chapman, SCSU's Assistant Athletics Director for Ticketing and Group Sales., about doing something as a memorial to Mack at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
Raboin got Chapman to have his season ticket moved to seat 8 in Section 205. Minkel got stickers made for the back of the seat and the bottom of the seat that have the silhouette of a hockey player and "MACK 18" on them.
"It's something in the family and when I say family, I mean Bryan and Jeremiah and all those people so close to the Motzko family and myself at St. Cloud," Raboin said. "That was Mack's seat. You look up as a player and that's where he was as a young boy. Then, as he grows up, he's in that same seat.
"Then I was sitting behind the bench and not on the bench, I would look up and that's his seat. He wasn't a kid that ran around. He was into the game and into his dad and he was a huge fan. I think of all the great memories and excitement and how proud he was. It's his seat. For us to be able to remember him and celebrate him with this sticker decal — Jeremiah did a tremendous job putting all of that together.
"It's just something little. Everyone wants to do something. There's just so much love for (Mack) and the Motzkos. Everyone wants to help and it's one of my ways to try to help. Maybe it helps me more because it's tough. It's a way for Mack to be there with us again."
Raboin was in his third year of junior hockey when St. Cloud State showed some recruiting interest in him as a defenseman playing junior hockey for the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. He said that he eventually was calling Bob Motzko and the coaching staff, asking to be on the team in the fall of 2006.
Raboin joined the team that fall as a walk-on when Mack was 5. Raboin played in 38 of the team's 40 games, was an alternate captain as a sophomore and then was the team's captain each of his last two seasons.
"We watched him grow up and that's where you would see him on Friday and Saturday night. He was a constant," Raboin said of Mack. "They became family quick. I have two younger sisters and I just remember him being like a little brother. You'd joke with him. Of course, when his dad was away, you'd screw around and try to get him to fight with (his younger brother, Beau). We just did fun stuff with him that players do with coach's kids.
"The coolest part for me was how he grew up and was becoming so well-spoken and just really impressive. Being able to have a lot of really good conversations with him as he went into high school and then to junior hockey ... it was conversations that were different than his father would have with him. I was more of an older brother, maybe, who had been through some similar things. It's not always easy making that transition from high school to junior (hockey).
"We had special talks. Those are the special memories that I keep with me."
Mack's devotion to the Huskies did not end when Bob took the job at Minnesota, either.
"St. Cloud (State) was his school, his home," Raboin said. "He cheers for his dad, but he was loyal and the Huskies were his team. Jeremiah and Bryan — that's his extended family. He felt comfortable there. He really loved spending time in that back office with those guys and who wouldn't? That's four times as big as any other (equipment manager's) office in all of college hockey."
The seat being dedicated to Mack is an indicator of how people in college hockey have reached out to show support to the Motzko family.
"The Huskies hockey family is pretty strong," St. Cloud State athletic director Heather Weems said. "When you look at the coaching tree of Bob Motzko and how it continues to grow with Garrett and (Huskies assistant coach) Nick Oliver, there's so much appreciation.
"Credit to Jeremiah and Garrett. They take care of one another. Bob has texted me pictures a number of times and he says that he can't find a picture of Mack prior to 10th grade where he's not in St. Cloud State garb. This is where he grew up ... That part never leaves. Amidst all the rivalries and loud noises and chirping you can do, at the heart of it, hockey is a pretty close-knit family. The way that hockey people interact and the camaraderie and respect is just first class."
While no one should be sitting in the seat that Mack sat in, Raboin said that he would be OK if he sees someone sitting there.
"If a kid sits in that seat, great. Mack would love that," Raboin said.
Editor's note: See the complete interview with Garrett Raboin on the Huskies Hockey Insider Podcast that will be available at 8 a.m. Thursday