The announcement that coach Guy Gadowsky was leaving the University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey program to become the head coach at Princeton was met with shock and sadness by most of the college hockey community in Fairbanks.
But the announcement that Tavis MacMillan would take over the reins of the UAF program was greeted with a sigh of relief from the players, according to goaltender Keith Bartusch, who will begin his senior season at UAF in the fall.
“It was a shocker; I don’t think any of us saw this coming at all,” said Bartusch, who was taken by surprise when a team meeting was called for 9 a.m. Wednesday, when Gadowsky announced his future plans.
Immediately following Gadowsky’s announcement, the players met with UAF athletic director Cory Schwartz.
“Everybody was in shock and when she said coach Mac would be running the team, you could see everybody start smiling as you looked around the room,” Bartusch said. “With Mac stepping in, it will be just another day. You’re not going to see any changes in the work ethic or commitment to the program. Everybody agrees that we’re going to continue to move forward.”
Junior defenseman Corbin Schmidt said he was “baffled and surprised” at Gadowsky’s announcement.
“It’s sad to see Guy go,” Schmidt said. “He not only taught us to be better at the game of hockey, but he taught me how to be a better person; that will be the foundation for what I do in the future.”
Most of the players thought Wednesday morning’s meeting was going to be about the importance of summer training programs and setting players’ summer workout programs.
“Our jaws dropped and you could sense the change to a very sad environment,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t want him to leave, but it’s for the betterment of his family and that’s the best thing for him.”
Felipe Larranaga, who completed his senior season with the Nanooks in March, also expressed disbelief at the news of Gadowsky’s leaving.
“We were all just shocked, but I’m pleased and very happy for coach Gads,” Larranaga said. “This program is going nowhere but up and they couldn’t have found a better replacement than Mac. Nobody knows hockey like coach Mac.”
Assistant coaches Todd Jones and Scott Lammers also were caught off guard by the announcement.
“It’s a tough day because coach Gadowsky gave me this opportunity,” said Jones, who is in his third season as an assistant coach. “It’s been so much fun and I’ve learned so much from how to handle players to how to be a good person and how important your family is.”
Jason Lammers, who joined the Nanooks’ staff last year, echoed Jones’ sentiments.
“He’s a big family man and I hope to follow his lead as my coaching career develops,” Lammers said. “He gave me a great opportunity here in Fairbanks and I know I’m going to be a better coach because of it.”
Bob Eley is the Sports Editor for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.