The unfamiliar man who coaches the Arizona Wildcats hockey team is wearing a red and blue golf shirt with the school's official "A" logo. It almost looks out of place. The old logo was slanted, a bit irregular, almost as if college hockey in Tucson was a knockoff.
He describes the UA hockey team as a "start-up" operation. "We are excited to change the culture," he says. How can this be?
By another name and with another coach, the Arizona Icecats played for 32 seasons and won 634 games, including the 1985 national championship. It was a one-man show. It was Leo Golembiewski's Show.
That man became bigger than the team, Coach G and the Icecats, even as the club hockey team wobbled (losing its last 16 games to Arizona State) and the university seized control of a program that had been one man's dominion since 1979.
The hockey season begins on Sept. 28 and the new coach, Sean Hogan, hasn't been in Tucson long enough to know the difference between a gila monster and a javelina. He was hired in July. He drove from Detroit 10 days later.
"The new uniforms will be here soon," says Hogan. "It's all new; we'll even have a new skate sharpener." All will be officially branded with the school's colors and logo. Thus, the old equipment, the hockey sticks, gloves, helmets, pads and mouthpieces, no longer apply.
It is a clean, if not harmonious, split from Coach G's operation.
The UA's club hockey team is now operated under the umbrella of the Department of Campus Recreation/Student Affairs. It conducted a national search to replace Golembiewski, and, because of threats of litigation, proceeded with caution.
That doesn't mean it kept a low profile.
The 33-year-old Hogan coached Oakland University of Rochester, Mich., to back-to-back ACHA national championships in 2006 and 2007. He was an assistant coach on an earlier Oakland national title team.
"After four years of coaching, we'd won three national championships," he says with a laugh. "I said, 'Hey, this is easy.' But, obviously, I know better."
If you want to have a first-class hockey program in this decidedly non-hockey setting, you should hire a coach who knows what it is to spill some blood on and off the ice. Hogan has that pedigree and more.
He played collegiately at Iona University in New York. He played briefly for the minor-league Macon Whooppee. He was on the staff at Western Michigan University. He was the manager of a bustling ice rink in Detroit. He ran a youth hockey organization with more than 800 kids.
If you think he's taking a chance stepping into Coach G's shoes, you should ask Hogan about the year he drove to Cody, Wyo., and coached the Yellowstone Quake hockey team.
"It was right out of the movie 'Slap Shot,'" he says with a chuckle. "It was a junior team of 16-year-old kids living with host families and going to high school in Cody. We would bus to all of those places you don't want to be in the winter: Butte, Helena, Billings, Missoula. We'd play on a Friday night in Montana, get on the bus and drive five hours back to Cody for a Saturday night game."
It wasn't cold, he says. "It was colder."
Tucson has enough of a hockey audience to attract a coach from Michigan, even though it has but one ice surface in an area of a million people.
"We have two adult hockey leagues, and Sean has already started a youth program," says Danny Plattner, a mortgage executive who grew up an NHL nut in St. Louis and now shares ice time with the Wildcats at the Tucson Convention Center. "There's a lot of interest here. It's going to do nothing but grow."
In the glory days of the Icecats, the decade of the '80s, it wasn't uncommon for 6,000 fans to jam into the TCC to watch hockey. The Icecats were rolling, the beer was cold and the new and exciting sport in the desert created a buzz and a niche.
Now, a generation later, crowds have diminished and the personality of the team has been redone.
"There's no excuse for us not to make the national tournament every year," says Hogan. "There's so much interest; I must get four or five calls or emails a day from kids in the Midwest who want to come here to play for the Wildcats. We're just getting started."
Even if it seems like they've never been gone.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org