Duluth, Minn. – Some 400 coaches from around the United States descended upon Duluth, Minn. on Thursday evening as the 2021 Level 5 Coaches Symposium began.
“Being here you’re committed to making the game better, so thank you for that,” said Mike MacMillan, USA Hockey’s National Coach-in-Chief who began the night with opening remarks. “You have each made sacrifices to be here to help make our game better, and we are thankful for that.”
MacMillan, like many people in the audience, is from the “State of Hockey,” which was the unofficial theme of night one. Christian Koelling, the Minnesota District Coach-in-Chief, gave remarks about how thankful he was that everyone was in Duluth to grow the game together while Dan Brennan, USA Hockey’s director of sled national teams, mentioned that you would be hard-pressed to find someone that hasn’t been influenced by someone from Minnesota.
The culmination of the opening remarks came from a special group of coaches from the “State of Hockey.” Scott Sandelin (University of Minnesota Duluth), Mike Hastings (Minnesota State University at Mankato), Brett Larson (St. Cloud State University) and Tom Serratore (Bemidji State University) took the stage for a panel discussion.
The quartet of coaches all led their teams to the 2021 NCAA tournament, with Hastings and Sandelin reaching the Frozen Four and Larson taking his squad to the National Championship against UMass. Sandelin’s Bulldog squad had won the previous two National Championships.
The coaches began by talking about those who influenced them, and Larson kept it up on stage when saying that Sandelin helped him get a start in coaching by taking a chance on him shortly after his playing days.
As these four coaches thought about making the NCAA tournament in this past year, one common name came up: Herb Brooks. The Minnesota and USA Hockey legend no doubt had an influence on the state of hockey in the “State of Hockey.”
“It’s very special for me as I go in every day to the Herb Brooks center,” said Larson. “The opportunities for the kids in the state of Minnesota to play is a culmination of Herb’s dream.”
“Playing for Herb was unique,” said Hastings. “That being the start for me as a player, as we began our tournament run this year, you never know where life is going to take you.”
Following questions from the coaches in the crowd, the night continued with a welcome reception hosted by Minnesota Hockey.
The weekend festivities will continue on Friday morning, as there will be more guest speakers and breakout sessions where coaches will get hands on experience and interaction with each other.