Coming off a record-breaking season in which the Irish finished 32-7-3, Notre Dame attempted to ensure the continued success of the hockey program Tuesday, signing coach Jeff Jackson to a two-year contract extension.
Jackson, who built the Irish program into a national contender in two years, will now be behind the bench for Notre Dame until the 2012-13 season. But if things go as planned, he said, he will be sticking along for much longer than that.
“I think this would be a great place to finish my career down the road,” Jackson said. “It seems awfully early to be talking about that, but I have already done a stint in the NHL and I have no desire to move on to any other college.”
Before coming to South Bend, Jackson spent two years as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders. He has also headed the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm and Lake Superior State. Jackson won two national championships with the Lakers before taking a sabbatical from the college game.
The contract extension is both a sign of what Jackson has been able to so far with the Irish and the athletic department’s support of the flourishing program.
“It’s nice to be recognized for what you’ve accomplished,” Jackson said. “The big thing for me was they recognized the entire staff.”
Assistant coaches Paul Pooley, Andy Slaggert and Mike McNeill will be guaranteed positions as long as Jackson is around.
The extension will also give top young recruits the confidence to sign on with Notre Dame knowing that the staff will still be around when they begin their career. This season’s freshman class was recognized as one of the top in the nation, with three players named to the CCHA All-Rookie team.
In the wake of losing eight key players to graduation this season, the 2007 freshmen will continue the upward trend of talent coming through the Notre Dame locker room. NHL scouts recently named all seven of the incoming freshmen in their list of the top-240 prospects for the upcoming draft.
“The NHL isn’t the perfect evaluator of talent,” Jackson said. “I think that the players we have coming in will be recognized as one of the best classes in the country, but they still have to get it done on the ice.”