BY JEFF PEEK

jpeek@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY "" On a sweltering day in which temperatures rose into the 90s, cooler heads (and a cold-weather sport) prevailed at Traverse City West on Wednesday when Jeremy Rintala was introduced as the school's new varsity hockey coach.

Rintala, an assistant at TC Central the past two seasons, takes over for Anthony Palumbo, who left to become general manager/head coach of the Traverse City North Stars Junior A team.

"Hard work is my No. 1 focus," Rintala said. "That way, no matter what your skill level, you have a chance to win any game.

"Anthony has done a great job of developing the program, and I'd like to be a perennial (state) contender."

Titans athletic director Patti Tibaldi said Rintala was one of "two wonderful candidates," but Rintala's philosophy eventually won out.

"I think what impressed me about Jeremy is he is focused on relationships, and that's the most important thing in coaching," Tibaldi said. "(Rintala) mentored under Chris Givens (at Central).

"I think he is a great young coach. He will be a great representative of what West stands for."

Rintala, 30, has accepted a history teaching position at West. His wife, Kelly, teaches language arts at the school. They have one child, 3-year-old daughter Ella.

Rintala has a long hockey background. He played high school hockey at Houghton (graduating in 1995), then played two seasons for the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Grizzlies of the North American Hockey League "" the same league that includes the TC North Stars.

A graduate of Northern Michigan University, Rintala worked at the Michigan Tech Hockey Development Center before becoming varsity head coach at Feeland High School in 2004-05.

He joined Givens' staff at Central the following season.

Rintala said he has already met several of his new players at West and also saw many of them play against the Trojans last season.

"We're pretty strong in net with Spencer Sonneveldt, and we have several good forwards "" Mitch Snider comes to mind," Rintala said. "Defensively, David Hanrahan could be a leader for us.

"We have a good base, plus we should get several players from the Bantam AA state championship team that lost in the semifinals at nationals," Rintala said. "Maybe most important, West has had one of the highest grade-point averages in the state the last two seasons.

"It's good to know that I'm getting good kids and good students as well as good hockey players. I'm excited."

Rintala also said he feels fortunate to play in a city that, as the training camp home of the Detroit Red Wings, has become known as Hockeytown North.

"It's a great hockey community," Rintala said. "There's a lot of support from parents, and the youth programs are great so you know you'll always have kids coming through.

"This is a nice role to walk into," he said. "Traverse City's a great hockey town."

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