In Memory

Stavros Canakes (Teacher)

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06/20/22 12:46 AM #1    

Bruce Miller

Stav Canakes - Canakes touched lives while winning titles

Canakes touched lives while winning titles

Sun Newspapers (St. Paul, MN) - Monday, October 27, 2008

Former Edina High football coaching legend Stav Canakes watched the Penn State-Ohio State college football game on TV Saturday, Oct. 25.

It was late in the day when the game concluded with Penn State winning 13-6. Coach Canakes brushed his teeth and sat down in his favorite chair for the last time.

When his wife Mary came to check on him, he had passed away. Canakes who had suffered a heart attack recently, was not in good health at the time of his death.

Canakes had turned 78 on Sept. 19 of this year.

Friends in Edina and neighboring communities remember Canakes as a tough competitor who never played favorites. He was also a good family man and a respected teacher.

"You could be the greatest player in the world or the poorest, and he treated you the same," said Ron Kosteliz, Canakes' longtime assistant, who eventually succeeded him as head coach at Edina High.

Kosteliz came to Edina in 1968, as the glory era in Hornet sports was just beginning. Edina won several mythical state football titles in the years prior to the inception of the prep playoffs in 1972.

Kosteliz recalled that Canakes was always prepared, always on top of his game.

"I learned so much from Stav," he noted. "Coaching with him was a seven-day-a-week commitment during the season. We would finish playing the game on Friday night, and then the coaching staff would meet. We were up early for films and practice on Saturday, and on Sunday nights we would get together and watch film, sometimes until midnight."

That preparation paid off, as Canakes became one of a handful of coaches in his era to earn more than 200 career wins.

Jim Luther, former head baseball coach at Edina High and a football assistant to Canakes, recalled the coach had a sense of humor.

"Stav had all these sayings," said Luther. "He once said a player couldn't knock a sick goat off a stump.

"One time the kids got ahold of an old film of Stav playing for the University of Minnesota. They put it in the projector and critiqued his performance. He actually took it pretty well."

On the field, on Friday nights, Canakes was all business.

"I have never met a more competitive person in my life than Stav," said Luther. "And he truly loved what he was doing. I marveled at his knowledge of the game and how he put it into the game plan each week. Stav was truly a student of the game.

"One thing I learned from him was that if you put in the time, it will show up on the field."

Former Richfield football coach Dick Walker had great battles with Canakes, but was a close friend off the field.

"For some reason, we just hit it off," said Walker. "We prepared for them, they prepared for us and it was always a good game."

Walker and Canakes even started spending time together on the weekends because their sons played together on the University of Minnesota-Duluth football team. J.D. Walker and Steve Canakes lived in a house together with a few other players including current Minnetonka High football coach Dave Nelson.

"When we played Edina, there was never any animosity," said Walker. "The kids on both sides played hard. One thing I remember from those years was how much the Edina kids respected Stav."

One of those Edina players was Phil Krafft, who played on Canakes' Edina-West High School team. From 1972-1981, Edina's school district had two high schools, East and West, and Canakes went to the new school on the Westside, which is now called Edina High School.

"Playing for Stav was always a learning experience," said Krafft, who now has a fourth-grade son in the Edina youth football program. "There was never a time when he wasn't trying to teach some kind of lesson.

"I was lucky enough to play on Edina's only state [playoff] championship team in 1978. Stav taught us that football is the ultimate team game. More than anything else, he stressed the idea that everyone has a job to do, and if everyone did his job to the best of his ability, you would succeed as a team.

"Another thing I learned from Stav was the importance of surrounding yourself with successful people," said Krafft. "He had some amazing coaches working with him at Edina-West, men like Bob Haddorff and Ron King."

Canakes' teams were always competitive in the Lake Conference, and they usually finished in the top three along with Richfield and Robbinsdale.

"The Edina teams usually weren't that big," said Luther. "But Stav always had the kids firing off the ball. One year Robbinsdale had a really big line. Stav commented that when they walked onto the field it tilted. Then we went out and beat them."

Off the field, Canakes loved to spend time with his family. He was often seen in the stands, quietly watching his grandchildren play.

When he wanted to get out of town, it would usually be a hunting trip.

"We used to hunt pheasants in Iowa and South Dakota," said Kosteliz. "In fact, we were going to take Stav out hunting this fall, but he had the heart attack. He had a knack for getting us on farms where there were a lot of birds to hunt.

"We had a trip planned one year, but Stav had a make-up football game and couldn't go with us. It was the best weekend of hunting we ever had...and Stav missed it. Two weeks later, we went again and we hardly got any birds. He still talked about that."

Kosteliz began to tear up, as he recalled the good times with his friend and mentor.

He was asked how coach Canakes should be remembered.

"Stav was a no nonsense guy," said Kosteliz. "And his kids always played fair and square."

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Sun Newspapers (St. Paul, MN) - Monday, October 27, 2008


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