It was a beautiful night out at the Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery on Tuesday night where new Minnesota State men's hockey coach Mike Hastings had a meet-and-greet with members of the Greater Mankato business community. The Greater Mankato Growth Business After Hours event featured music by former MSU captain and budding Canadian country music star Chad Brownlee. Another former captain and current captain of the St. Louis Blues, David Backes was also there.
A few highlights from the event:
• Minnesota State President Richard Davenport told the crowd that 10 minutes into a "clandestine" meeting with Hastings during the coaching search, he knew Hastings was the right man for the job.
• Hastings continued the theme of community that he began talking about the day he was hired. "We're committed to this community," he said. "It's something we want to be a part of." He said the commitment shown to him by Davenport and the university is "something other programs want to get." Of course, talking to a group of mostly business owners and leaders, he said, "We do need your help."
• Brownlee? He played a brilliant set, just him and acoustic guitar with songs off his two albums as well as some covers — including a country-fried version of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." In February, Brownlee toured Canada opening eight shows for Dierks Bentley. "I remember driving around in my truck in Mankato listening to a Dierks Bentley album," Brownlee said.
Brownlee played golf with Backes, Hastings and the rest of the MSU staff on Tuesday and said Hastings "seems like a good guy. I don't know a lot about of him, but he sure is passionate. That's what I like about him."
• Backes? He has some history with Hastings that goes back to 2003 when he played for the Lincoln Stars and Hastings coached the Omaha Lancers. The two teams met in the USHL finals that year. The result? "I have a ring from that series," Backes said with a laugh. Aside from the trash talk, Backes endorsed the Hastings hire. "We talked about ... ideology of hockey and how to grow the program," he said. "And (Hastings is) spot on."
More to come ...