ONALASKA, Wis. - The Onalaska boys and Onalaska co-op girls hockey teams will be playing at state in Madison this week. It will be an exciting time for two head coaches with a deeply rooted history in our area.
"We go back a long way. Our parents go back a long, long way."
Onalaska boys head coach Tim Ebner and Onalaska co-op girls head coach Tim Franzini played high school hockey together, separated by just three years in age.
"And I actually started coaching for him (Franzini) right out of high school," said Ebner.
"Was my assistant down in La Crosse for a couple of years," said Franzini.
Then Franzini began his 15-year stint leading the Onalaska boys program while Ebner remained in La Crosse.
"When I was a head coach in La Crosse back in the mid-80's and he was coaching up here in Onalaska we had some battles back and forth. We're both competetive guys," said Ebner.
In 1995, Franzini led the Hilltoppers to their first ever state appearance.
A few years later, Ebner paired up with Franzini as an assistant again, this time in Onalaska.
In their years working toghter, both appreciated what the other brought to the bench.
"He knows all the aspects of the game," Franzini said of Ebner. "He can make all the adjustments as things come up."
"He's one of the best bench coaches I've been around," Ebner said of Franzini. "He's really dialed in during games, he really knows what the opponent is doing."
After the 2004 season, Franzini left and Ebner moved into the head coaching position he still holds today. Ebner followed in Franzini's footsteps coaching the Hilltoppers to a state appearance in 2009.
Meanwhile in 2006 Franzini would become the Aquinas co-op head coach, and was once again going head-to-head against Ebner.
"It was a good rivalry," said Franzini. "There were some heated times but when the game was over, it was over."
After stepping down as Aquinas co-op head coach at the end of last season, Franzini found himself back on the Onalaska bench. However this time running the girls program.
"People may have a hard time to believe it, but there is really not that much difference," Franzini said when it comes to coaching boys or girls.
Tim Franzini and Tim Ebner. Longtime friends. Old rivals. And now their paths will cross once again, this time at the state tournament in Madison.
"Makes it icing on the cake and even a little bit nicer that we both get to go down and experience it at the same time," said Franzini.
"It's kind of been a fun ride over the years," said Ebner.