MARQUETTE — Five weeks ago, Northern Michigan closed the book on the Walt Kyle era and decided to make a leadership change in the hockey program.
“We had an amazing pool of candidates. It was really great to see our university community embrace and support people as they came, and working through this particular process,” NMU President Fritz Erickson said.
And today, they found their man in former Minnesota assistant coach Grant Potulny.
“I’d like to thank Dr. Erickson, Athletic Director Karr and the search committee for entrusting the program with me. I understand the rich history of the two coaches that have coached here before me and all the success that they have had, and we will build on that,” Potulny said.
Potulny is well-known within the Gophers hockey program, scoring the game–winning goal in the 2002 NCAA National Championship game. He has spent the past eight seasons at Minnesota, becoming an important part in the teams success. During his tenure as an assistant coach, the Gophers reached the Frozen Four in 2012 and 2014, and they have won six consecutive regular season titles. Needless to say, Potulny has a great reputation in the college hockey community.
“They consistently mention his presence. That’s a word I hear often. His ability to make everyone around him better and his tremendous leadership. Grant is without question a leader and has been throughout his entire career,” said NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr.
This is definitely an outside–the–box hire for NMU as Potulny has no ties to the Upper Peninsula or the state of Michigan. And that might be a much needed breath of fresh air for the Wildcats hockey program.
“I understand that all of these guys want to be professional hockey players, and that’s going to be part of what we’re molding. But we’re also going to mold fine young men so that when they leave here, they are great ambassadors for our program and great ambassadors for the city of Marquette,” said Potulny.
Since 2010, which was the last time the Wildcats made it to the NCAA Tournament, NMU has made it to the conference playoffs each year, but has failed to win a first playoff series. But Potulny is looking to change that with this current crop of players.
“The culture here is excellent right now. I’m inheriting a program with a great culture. And now it’s my turn to be able to add my spin on it and to bring in my ideas to create that family trusting culture,” said Potulny.
Potulny will be making a big jump going from the Big Ten to the WCHA. But he is confident in being able to create a winning team at NMU.
“At the end of the day, hockey is hockey. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in or where you play. You get between the boards and you know what? It’s time to play. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to the opportunity and looking forward to coaching a team that’s going to make everyone proud,” Potulny said.