Would be in front of Burnsville Ice Center

An effort to honor hockey coach Tom Osiecki with a life-size bronze statue in front of the Burnsville Ice Center has won the City Council’s endorsement.

At a work session Tuesday, council members agreed to allow the statute in front of the city-owned arena. The city’s Parks and Natural Resources Commission voted last month to recommend the project.

Now it’s up to backers to raise the money. A statue by Minnesota artist Nick Legeros, who has sculpted many sports legends, will cost about $50,000, according to Burnsville resident Pete Heunisch, who is leading the campaign.

Osiecki, who started the Burnsville High School hockey program in 1966, coached Burnsville Braves teams to state championships in 1985 and 1986 and was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame in 1995.

The former BHS teacher, who still lives in Burnsville, won six section titles during his 24 years coaching the boys. Two of his teams were state runners-up.

“He’s kind of the Vince Lombardi of hockey here in Burnsville, if I can make that comparison,” Council Member Dan Kealey said.

Osiecki coached BHS girls hockey in its early years, leading the Blaze from 1996 to 1998 and from 2004 to 2006. He launched the women’s hockey program at St. Olaf College, coaching from 2000 to 2004.

“He was always a real big booster of girls hockey, women’s hockey,” Heunisch told the council.

The project is endorsed by the Burnsville Community Foundation, which has an agreement with the city to act as a partner on memorials in the parks system. But the foundation declined to get involved with this project.

The organization is currently occupied with “Homage,” a life-size sculpture that will honor first responders, Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said. “Homage” will be installed in front of City Hall and the police station.

So fundraising for the Osiecki statue falls to its supporters, Kautz said.

Heunisch, who was student manager for the 1985 and 1986 championship teams and the Braves’ 1987 runner-up team, said he hopes to unveil the statue in February, in conjunction with the ice arena’s 50th anniversary.

“Tom was there when the arena was built,” said Heunisch, whose father, Dick, joined him as an assistant coach in 1967. “It seems right to unveil it then.”

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