Northern Michigan tabs Minnesota assistant Potulny as Wildcats’ new head coach

18 Nov 11: Grant Potulny (Minnesota - Coach) The St. Cloud State University Huskies host the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in a WCHA conference match-up at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
Grant Potulny spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Grant Potulny was announced Tuesday morning as the third head coach in Northern Michigan.

Potulny spent the past eight seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers capture six regular-season conference titles and qualify for five NCAA tournaments.

“Grant impressed everyone throughout the interview process and truly earned this opportunity,” said NMU director of athletics Forrest Karr in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader committed to excellence and has achieved success at each level as a player and as a coach. Grant has had quality mentors throughout his career, and it shows in his attention to detail and plan for Northern Michigan hockey. This is Grant’s time to lead and continue the program’s rich history.”

Potulny replaces Walt Kyle, who was relieved of his duties in March.

“Grant is very deserving of the opportunity to be the next head coach at Northern Michigan University,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said in a news release. “He’s had a tremendous career at the ‘U’ as a player and as a coach, and it’s been enjoyable to watch him grow. There’s no question in my mind that he’s ready to be a head coach. Grant’s a great family man, and he and his family will be a tremendous asset in their move to Marquette.”

“Grant will be an outstanding ambassador for Northern Michigan University,” added NMU president Fritz Erickson. “He impressed me with the importance he places on academics, his passion for the game and the depth of his answers. I believe he will lead our hockey program into a bright future.”

A two-time NCAA and WCHA tournament champion during his playing career at Minnesota, Potulny has also experienced success on the international stage. In 2013 and 2017, he helped the United States win the IIHF World Junior Championship as an assistant coach.

“My family and I are very excited to be joining the Northern Michigan community,” Potulny said. “The hockey team has been a great source of pride for alumni, fans and students for the past 41 years. This is a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to adding to the tradition and success of Wildcat hockey.”

The NMU players are equally ecstatic.

“First, I want to thank Walt Kyle for his leadership and contributions as Northern Michigan University’s head coach over the past 15 seasons,” Wildcats senior forward Zach Diamantoni said in a statement. “Now, we are looking forward to starting a new chapter of Wildcat hockey with Coach Potulny. My initial impression of Coach Potulny was he’s a winner. During our meeting, he demonstrated a calm, confident presence with a clear vision for success. Coach Potulny brings tremendous leadership and a winning attitude that will have a positive impact on the Northern Michigan University hockey program and community.”

At Minnesota, Potulny worked primarily with the forwards and power-play units and was heavily involved in recruiting. Under his guidance, the Gophers were one of the nation’s top offensive teams.

Minnesota reached the NCAA Frozen Four in 2012 and 2014. The Gophers ultimately fell in the 2012 semifinals to eventual champion Boston College and in the 2014 finals to Union.

Potulny recruited and coached 11 skaters who went on to play in the NHL: Mark Alt, Nick Bjugstad, Hudson Fasching, Erik Haula, Seth Helgeson, Nick Leddy, Kyle Rau, Mike Reilly, Nate Schmidt, Jordan Schroeder and Brady Skjei. Under his watch, seven players also garnered All-American accolades.

From 2000 to 2004, Potulny played at Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and was the team’s only three-year captain since 1947. As an assistant captain in 2002, he netted the game-winning goal in Minnesota’s 4-3 overtime victory over Maine in the national championship game. He then captained the Gophers to a second national title the following campaign.

Potulny, who finished his collegiate career with 116 points (68 goals, 48 assists) in 146 career games, went on to play five seasons at the professional level. From 2004 to 2007, he skated for the Ottawa Senator’s American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y. He also spent time with the AHL’s Hershey Bears (2007-08), Springfield Falcons (2007-08), San Antonio Rampage (2008-09) and Norfolk Admirals (2008-09).

A native of Grand Forks, N.D., Potulny was selected by Ottawa in the fifth round (157th overall) in the 2000 NHL Draft.

Potulny and his wife, Melissa, have three children: Jack, Owen and Charlotte.


        • I’ll take actually winning titles and consistently making the tourney than beating another team. But what ever helps you sleep at night, princess.

          • Not so much the goofs as their priceless arrogant fans…..(not all, but a vast majority)

          • Yes — it’s Gopher fans that have problems. Not those us who jump on the bandwagon of a team whose very good — and then proceed to be complete a-holes all the time – we don’t have a problem at all

          • .
            its all that fake cheese and canned jalapeños on those NACHOS… its giving him a massive indigestion. ;)

        • It’s true, MN is one of just 3 teams in the nation who have a >.500 record vs the Sioux. Just know that we save our best for last….hence, the 8 NC’s. But, hey, you keep on keeping on with Lucia. Good luck with that.

          • 8 is nice but head to head your right.We own head to head competition, NCAA tourney competition and the icing on the cake was nice winning the 79 title with an all born and bred Minnesota team against your older Canuck squad. Minnesota hockey at its best.

          • That ’79 MN team was one of the top 3 teams in CH history….imo. The ’81 Wisconsin team (and even their ’80 team) was loaded with talent. The ’87 UND team was simply unstoppable.
            I would throw the ’16 UND team and DU’s ’17 team in this conversation was well.

          • Agree about that 87 team. The 79 Minnesota team was their best ever imo. The 80 team that never was would have been hands down one of the best college teams ever as all from 79 team would have been back but 9 of their players helped win gold for the US.

          • Yea, good point, that ’80 MN team would have been absurdly loaded with top end talent. UND only lost one player, Dave Christian, to the ’80 Olympic team. I knew I would miss a team or two from east coast. W/out seeing these teams on a regular basis you are left to the NT to pass judgment. Did that Maine team have as much talent up and down the roster as these other teams we are talking about? You know what, that ’81 Wisconsin team has to be right there with the ’79 MN team….tough choice.

          • I just know the 2 guys I mentioned and that they hardly lost all year. I don’t know much about the east either except for what I see tourney time. Minnie actually took 3 of 4 vs Wisconsin in regular season and won wcha in 81 but Wisconsin got hot and steamrolled through tourney.

          • Didn’t take long for the goof fans to chime in about their “all MN team” as if it even matters. Those all MN teams sure did a great job between 1980 and 2001……. What is your next comment? We have an NHL team and ND doesn’t?

          • Nope don’t care if you do or don’t. The comment was in response to your bud bragging about 8 titles in a thread that is supposed to be about Poltulney getting a head coaching job. Way to make it about you and the Susie’s. Anyway, it does matter. Minnesota is the only team in the history of the tourney to win with not only and all American team but an all Minnesotan team. And we did it 3 times. There’s a Lot of pride in that if your from this state. Downplay it all you want but it’s actually more impressive than 8 titles. There are 2 other teams with 8 or more. There is No other team to win with 100 % of their players from in state. And again we did it 3 times.

          • And again…….only goof fans care where players come from. No one else give a flying F about a team made up of people only from that state. They are still the idiots that chime in about Canadian players, even as less than a third of UND is Canadian, yet don’t care about the other Canadians playing college hockey. I don’t give a crap where anyone comes from. You find the players that give you the best chance to win. But if it helps you sleep at night, princess, you go ahead and keep bragging about those all MN teams. Woog sure did a great job getting those all MN teams to win titles.

          • Wasn’t talkin about Canadians now Einstein. Read the post. Yur green puke green colored glasses are getting the better of you. You may not care but most people from here do. And if you have any pride in something your state does well, in this case hockey your darn right we’re proud of it. And always will be! I’ll take it anyway over the amount of titles a team has. That’s what pro hockey is for. And get something straight. Every article isn’t about how great you are or how many titles you have. Go to Susie sports dot com to do that. This post is about Grant. Quit making every article about yur favorite team.

          • Hey Einstein….go back up where you say older canuck squad…..if that’s not talking about Canadians, I have no clue what is.

          • I did say older 1979 Canadian squad. You then whined about how “1/3 of und is Canadian which they are today but I was referring to the past. Must be hard to understand things in that meathead brain of yours.

          • It has been, and unfortunately always will be,
            deflect….and schadenfreude…..deflect….and schadenfreude.
            (meathead is funny af…..aka….Carroll O’Connor, not Reiner)

          • And if you had half a brain, you would have been smart enough to realize that only the rodent fans brought up anything with UND. My original comment was that NMU fans should hope that Potulny didn’t take coaching advice from Lucy Lucia.

      • Since you raise the Lucia angle, I think NMU would be pleased if Potulny fares as well as Bob Motzko and Mike Hastings.

          • oowwww…burn but that’s what those nasty Gopher fans get— you know the real obnoxious arrogant ones — those fans not the dedicated UND fans who couldn’t get into Minnesota no matter how many favor their mother did.

    • .
      i think that dave shyiak woulda been more of the same broken record. rumor is that could not agree financially.

      but be certain this guy is on a career path… think rick comely on this one.

      how long will lucia last?

      glad to see a solid hire into the WCHA.


  1. Smart move, NMU! One of the all-time best Gopher players. He was the heart & soul of those early ’00 Gopher teams – and the real reason they won back-to-back titles. Gophers haven’t had a leader like him since. Best of luck, Grant. Hoping we see you back on the Gopher bench someday!

    • .’
      if lucia (or guentzel i guess) hangs in there for 8-to-12 years, i bet that’s exactly what will happen…

      happy for NMU and the WCHA.



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