Arizona State hires former Wisconsin-Eau Claire player, NHLer Hicks as assistant coach

Arizona State shocked the college hockey world when athletic director Ray Anderson announced the formation of a Division I men’s ice hockey program on Nov. 18.

Greg Powers, who is the head coach for the Sun Devils hockey team at the club level, was named the school’s first varsity head coach at the same introductory news conference.

Powers has wasted little time in his search for an assistant coach. In an interview with USCHO, Powers said that he has hired former NHL winger Alex Hicks to be his first assistant coach. Hicks is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Arizona State club team.

Hicks played Division III hockey for Wisconsin-Eau Claire before embarking on a 14-year professional hockey career that included 258 games in the NHL at stops in Anaheim, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Florida.

When reached for comment, Powers and Hicks were on a recruiting trip in Western Canada. Powers said there was a trust factor involved with hiring Hicks, but his experience as an NHL player was the deciding factor.

“I hired Alex because he’s with me now on our current team and we work well together, and I can trust him,” Powers said. “But more importantly, I don’t want any kid to say to us, ‘You don’t know what it takes to get me to the next level.’ If there’s one guy that knows what it takes to get to the next level, it’s a guy that was able to develop himself to get to the National Hockey League and have a sustainable career off playing Division III hockey. He knows exactly what it takes.”

Powers said they are in no hurry to fill the other opening on the staff. They are looking for a coach with NCAA experience and don’t want to have to pull a coach out of his current job during the season.

“The other staff member that I’ll hire will be someone with deep-rooted NCAA experience. And we’re going to take our time with that hire, and post it,” Powers said. “There are a lot of guys that are interested already, as you can imagine. But, we don’t want a guy to have to up and leave his current situation.

“We’ll do it when it’s right. If we have to wait until the end of the season to make that official and make that announcement, we will.”

Arizona State will make its Division I debut next season as an independent school playing a hybrid schedule of club and varsity opponents. It intends to play a full varsity schedule in 2016-17 and join a conference in 2017-18.