The annual WCHA preseason coaches conference call on Tuesday had a few themes. Goaltending was a big one. Outdoor games was another (Minnesota and Wisconsin will play one in Chicago, Nebraska Omaha will host one against North Dakota, Michigan Tech will play in the Great Lakes Invitational, which is lated to be outdoors in Detroit this season). Crappy cellphone coverage and lousy speaker phones was one more (conference calls sure sounded a lot better in the days of land lines).
But nearly every coach started his statement by welcoming Mike Hastings to their exclusive club of WCHA coaches. That was the focus of my Free Press column on Wednesday, and you can read that here. I also covered some of the other highlights of those kind words for the new MSU coach on Twitter yesterday.
It's amazing how small the college hockey world is and how many connections Hastings has with those coaches. He worked as an assistant for Minnesota's Don Lucia and Nebraska Omaha's Dean Blais (Lucia said he is proud to now have three former assistants in the league — Hastings, St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko and Colorado College's Scott Owens). Wisconsin's Mike Eaves was an assistant at SCSU when Hastings played there. Hastings and Bemidji State's Tom Serratore were assistants together at St. Cloud for a year. Motzko talked about being classmates with Hastings there. Owens talked about competing with Hastings when they were both successful USHL coaches, Owens with Des Moines and Hastings with Omaha.
Although it didn't come up on Tuesday, Motzko went head to head with Hastings in the USHL, as did North Dakota's Dave Hakstol. Certainly, all of the coaches ran into Hastings at one point or another as they attempted to recruit his junior players in Omaha.