North Dakota’s Berry looks back to the call that changed his career path

Brad Berry took over as North Dakota’s head coach this season (photo: Melissa Wade).

TAMPA, Fla. — Brad Berry is a good husband. This is a fact indisputable, given what he said in Friday’s news conference.

“Everything,” he said, “goes through your wife as far as [the] decision-making process.”

Clearly, this is a man that knows a little about life.

There was this one time, however, that Berry didn’t consult his wife, Suzanne, about a significant decision that changed his life — when he got a call from Dean Blais asking him to serve as an assistant coach at North Dakota, back in 2000.

“I was just coming off of pro hockey,” said Berry. “The crossroads of life, what do you do after you play, and the phone call came in the late summer. I was just married, had two young children at the time, and everything goes through your wife as far as [the] decision-making process.

“This one didn’t go through my wife. It took me about point-five seconds and I said, ‘Honey, we’re going back to Grand Forks.'”

The calculated risk seems to have turned out all right.

Berry spent a total of nine seasons as an assistant at North Dakota, first under Blais from 2000 to 2006, and then again under Dave Hakstol from 2012 to 2014. In between, Berry served as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (2006-08) and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets (2010-12).

Prior to coaching, Berry had a long professional hockey career. After playing three seasons for North Dakota (1983-86) the defenseman played in the pros from 1985 to 1999, starting in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets and ending with six straight seasons with Kalamazoo of the IHL.

He said that he’s still very grateful for the initial opportunity to coach alongside Blais.

“He recruited me as a player back in 1983 at UND,” Berry said. “He asked me to be a part of the North Dakota family as a player a long time ago, then he asked me to be a part of the North Dakota family as a coach. It’s a great honor.”

Berry has a chance to become the only first-year head coach to win the Division I national championship. Jeff Sauer won in his first year as head coach of Wisconsin in 1983, but Sauer had already been a head coach with Colorado College. Tim Whitehead played for a national championship in his first year as head coach with Maine in 2002, but Whitehead had also been a head coach at UMass-Lowell.

Two other NCAA coaches reached the national championship in their first year as head coaches, Minnesota’s John Mariucci (1953) and North Dakota’s Gino Gasparini (1979).