Monday, March 07, 2016

Season Three Over!

End of the season... winning in overtime with 41 seconds to go after we had tied it up with 30 seconds to go. What happened since my last blog before the second season began? Somewhere along the way, I discovered reverse culture shock from my NYC visit, we lost a couple of recruits last minute and struggled almost as badly in the second year. Finished the year strong, got ourselves a great second recruiting class and then we went 17-11-2. Much better.

Always great when you can also finish the season with some hardware.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Season Two!

Recruiting Ups and Downs
When the season ended on February 20th, I immediately went into recruiting mode. This year we will have 6 new players. At one stage, I thought we were going to have 8 but we had two drop off in the last minute. When you’re a volunteer coach giving your time and energy to this cause, it can be disappointing. I am reminded that Coach Mike Krzyzewski was able to land one of his top recruits (Shane Battier) on how he handled not getting a recruit from this same school many years earlier. However, it still stings. The other part of recruiting that is usually that is even harder has been the guys who are on campus, who could play, but don’t want to or cannot financially. I wish I had something like this in my undergrad... it's a great experience.
The Summer’s Road Less Traveled
Where do I begin? From my first NASSM presentation in 5 years in Pittsburgh to helping my roommate move to Northern Illinois to Canada Day in Ottawa. I was only home briefly and then had the summer reunion with the greatest city in the world. It was a dream working in the East Village while living in Astoria for 5 weeks... even managed to see Manchester United play in DC. So when I returned to Lexington and found myself with reverse culture shock, there was only one cure...
Back on the Ice!
Rookies are settling in well and I couldn't be more excited for the second season. And if we are able to bring in another 6 like I did this past year, we should on our way to a great season. As it stands, I am going to spend much of the season trying not to think of the players not on the bench and quite proud of the guys who came in and are ready to contribute.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Season Two Begins Now...

"Into the stands... and into the offseason!"
The clock struck zero on a season ending loss 5-2, I hugged my captain good-bye, and I immediately began my second season.

Special thanks to family and my friends who supported me in the past hockey season. It was a challenging year but well worth it as it was a big part in my reuniting with the best people in the world: hockey people. Hockey is always the winner.

We have a nice set of players coming in next year which will be spoken about more in the coming months. For now, I am simply enjoying Monday nights with no practice to interrupt "How I Met Your Mother" and with the recently purchased NHL package post-Olympics in the afterglow of the Canadian Double Gold Medals in ice hockey.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Beginning of the Season's End...

"Back at the office": January, 2014.
As the end of the hockey season approaches, there are a few memories circling in my head when I think of where I hope the EKU Hockey program goes from here. And it is for this unlikely reason, Mats Naslund, Lou Holtz and my friend Paul Brower have somehow become interrelated.

In 1986, before the specialization boom when athletes still spent their summers doing other things, I remember amidst the championship excitement of watching Mats Naslund getting interviewed by Hockey Night in Canada’s Dick Irvin in the celebratory dressing room in Calgary. When asked how he was going to celebrate the Stanley Cup, Naslund told viewers he was going to celebrate by taking a couple of weeks off before getting back into shape.
No matter what, we need to continue working hard in the off season.

The second thing I recall is reading Lou Holtz’s book on the Notre Dame 1988 Championship season and remember noting immediately how the book began right after the Irish lost in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day… 8 months before the season began and what the book’s 4-month season and main narrative was about. Recruiting, off-season conditioning, and scheduling… these are the things that build successful programs.

Finally, in a more recent memory, I remember losing with Paul Brower with our Nichols tennis teams in conference play and immediately hitting the recruiting websites. Now it’s four years (yet many life lessons and stories) later from those interesting days and I now know that his efforts have been well worth it as he continues to find top 25 recruiting classes at Nichols year in, year out. No matter what time of the season, we are always building for something better.

I have been so grateful for the return to hockey this year and in particular, some of the great players I inherited with no chance to recruit anybody. There are many practices and games where I would sit there amongst a challenging schedule, often taking one on the chin (with the idea to remind myself for later on when things improve to still remember) and say to myself, “Isn’t it great that you at least have (name of player)!”. There’s no doubt this season has been both humbling and rewarding.

We are 5-9-2 (with the “2” my non-“TBH” way of erasing losses by labeling an overtime and a shootout loss as "ties") and I am still loving the battle despite the unusually frigid temperatures in Kentucky. A year ago, not so sure if I was looking long term here in Kentucky, and frigid days like this one would have made it even worst. I have obviously discovered in the education business, you really never can be sure.

However, despite my still missing the Florida temperatures from my great Christmas holiday and the losing record, today is still a day to be grateful for. I have 7 commits for next year, many of whom have played the game at a decent level already (including some great young talent), a group of guys who want to work hard, and an acceptance to present at NASSM for the first time since 2009 just arrived by email today.

This coming weekend is an "off-weekend" (after Appalachia State cancelled) to reflect… and maybe find a frozen pond to go play some outdoor hockey. As always, the cycles of hockey and life, each with their own memories of championships, life experiences, and hopes of landing the next big recruit, go on in my road less traveled...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Big Picture

The amazing young author, Adam Shepard, recently sent me his latest book. The inscription was one of the great compliments I have ever received in awhile. I had met Adam right before the "insanity" began in 2010 when he was at my former school talking about his book, "Scratch Beginnings". Adam's new book updating us all on his ife reminded me of the big picture... what I thought was going to be lemons, I got lemonade in 2011 spending a year in New York in 2011, and eventually back in my dream coaching position. It also reminded me to keep the big picture in mind this season.

So when do you recall the big picture? When It's 3 AM and you stare at the wall with a permagrin n your face after beating a team in a close game prompting you to climb up on the glass and high five every fan in the rink... or when it's 3 AM you are at a Quality Inn in Danville having just left an amazing loft rental in Quebec City to fly back to drive 3 hours to lose 7-1. In both instances, you try to remember how you had that same permagrin smile in a basement apartment in Regina after coming back from 3-0 down to beat Bethune in 2002 with Coach John Smith and the same awful feeling in your gut after tough lopsided losses with the Argos in 2000 with Terry O'Malley, and remind yourself that you have lived the same feelings before... although this year they get to be often felt in the same season about 2 weeks apart.

This past weekend on a recruiting trip, I got the ultimate reminder of why I am back in coaching. I got to watch Curtis McElhinney play for the Columbus Blue Jackets. While I am not sure if any of my current players will get the same post hockey career experience (it could happen...), I still get the same pride seeing other former players doing cool things. Interesting that Curtis was in nets with those losses and Adam Shaffer, the same amazing guy that got the game winning goal (on a broken ankle no less... courage!) in 2002 is now an Executive Chef. So whether it's the Shane Kellys now coaching the same Pownal Red Devils I got to coach in 2004 or the guys who might find themselves saying "keep doing what you're doing" recalling when their clueless tennis coach tried to help them, I merely hope to hear stories in the future in how my current players are saving lives in a fire (staying safe themselves), flying people around the country as pilots, or simply being great role models for their respective families.

The seasons, life and hockey, go on...

Monday, October 28, 2013

End of the 1st Period

At the crossroads and still smiling at 4 and 3...
After a tough weekend in Dayton, it was nice to get home and take a couple of more wins against Memphis last weekend. With Ball State at home and Eastern Illinois the week after, I am also adding the presenting of research at the NASSS conference in Quebec City on "Athlete Aggression" into my schedule. There is no doubt by time I reach the weekend of November 15th and looking at some potential hockey recruits in Columbus, Ohio (catching my injury riddled Habs on that Friday night), we could be sitting on the top of something special or struggling to survive. It's a fun challenge.

With the plans of EKU playing a 23-game schedule we have reached the 1/3 mark of the season. The 25-minute drives, the late nigths (3:30 AM this weekend), and non-stop thoughts about the team's progress, this is the closest things I have had to parenthood in my lifetime. For the fatigue alone, it was nice to deliver a home victory and perform an overhead "Sir Alex" clap to our crazy fans on both nights... and I would say more parents deserve this type of moment that I clearly have not had the chance to understand. This time last year I was at the Lexington Food Show hanging out with my favorite celebrity chef, Tyler Florence. This year, with the same Lexington Food Show on, I was simply too tired to do anything social. Yesterday's trip to Joseph Beth bookstore was the closest thing to a "social moment". It's all about sacrifice.

Still loving the battle... and now for Ball State. The last time I saw them live in any sport, a young Bonzi Wells was getting upset by my CMU Chippewas in MAC basketball regular season action in 1998. They did beat us in football in overtime that year. Ah, glory days. I will talk about these days the same in about 15 years.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ready for Another Hockey Weekend

After the excitement of winning our first game last Friday, it was a coaching challenge to get the boys up for Saturday. Toughest parts of blowouts is preparing the next day. While 6-3 was much closer, I was beyond happy to get the result. Of course, the best part for the players was it being club hockey, my job as a coach pretty well ended at the buzzer. I hit the hot tub and they hit Beale Street.

After midterms, it was Fall break and for me a little Canadian Thankgving. I was quite happy to back in the city where the coaching dream once fell short in 2001 but that on a cold night in 2012 on a Tuesday night in West Ottawa that I remembered (in the middle of an evening community skate) the joys of giving back to my community in my favorite way. The weekend featured family time and a look at a potential recruit playing some Junior B hockey in the EOJHL.

Getting two wins under our belt was huge for the team and I am hopeful for that little spark of a sign of things to come. I am not going to lie: I certainly sent out many emails on Monday and Tuesday after our Memphis weekend to potential recruits. With the latest story coming out last week talking about how schools with high tuition rates use sports as a method to attract students willing to pay good money for “the experience of playing college hockey”, I think we are doing just that. Between practices, dry land training, and access to the many of the same facilties as our NCAA D-I athletes, I am quite proud of the things we are doing in a very unique sporting situation.

My other favorite part of taking two on the weekend is the congratulatory moments you have with other coaches, some of who make a lot more money than I do doing this. The professor job certainly pays more… but nothing beats the passion from coaching.

My repeated mantra has been “we area work in progress”. Our practice last night indicated we still have a lot of work to do… the first and sweep in the history of the program isn’t the reason why I took the job. Looking for more of the same things to come in Dayton this weekend.

And finally... in the category of "things that stay off the blog" and will continue to do so in recognizing Eric Cantona's famous words, I wanted to mention that I made it six straight yesterday as in "Six. Straight. Positive. WRITTEN. Performance. Evaluations." Regardless... Thank you for that paid trip to New York between 4 and 5.