MARSHALL - Going from a Moorhead High School hockey program steeped in tradition to a community where the sport is still working to get its foothold, Michael Weiss saw the Marshall boys' hockey program take a new step in its evolution last season while serving as an assistant on the Tigers' first-ever state tournament team.
The young coach and the relatively young program will get to continue to grow together, as Weiss was named the new head coach of Marshall Tigers hockey on Thursday. He replaces Dave Coudert, who resigned in May for personal reasons after coaching the team to its first state tournament appearance in his first and only year at the helm.
Weiss earned three varsity letters for the Moorhead Spuds before moving on to play collegiately at Concordia-Moorhead from 2007-11. Upon graduating from college, he went back to his old high school to serve as a junior varsity coach for one season. Weiss knows what it takes to be a part of a winning program and would like continue to implement what he's learned to help Marshall boys' hockey take its next steps forward.
"Hopefully we can keep going in the same direction," Weiss said. "I know a lot of the kids are already working hard towards next year, so hopefully we built a real footing last year and will be able to excel and keep building the youth program all the way up to high school."
Weiss came to Marshall last year to take a fourth-grade teaching position at West Side Elementary. He also served as an assistant hockey coach and assistant baseball coach at Marshall High School. His other coaching experiences includes serving as an assistant coach for the District Four High Performance 15's hockey team and coaching at the Blueline Hockey School in Moorhead.
Weiss is spending the summer in his hometown of Moorhead and is in the midst of coaching a month-long youth hockey camp. He is also helping lead a Legion baseball team. Although he has only been a coach for a short time, Weiss hasn't need much time to find his identity.
"Playing and coaching, I've always emphasized a hard work ethic," Weiss said. "If you're doing things right, if you're putting yourself in the right position and working hard, good things are going to happen. We're really going to push these kids to work as hard as they can and teach them the ins and outs of the game."
Weiss' familiarity with the Marshall hockey program and his obvious enthusiasm for teaching the game were two traits that helped him earn his new head coaching position.
"Michael has an excellent hockey background and has great passion and energy for the game," Marshall activities director Bruce Remme said in a press release. "Michael is a skilled teacher of hockey fundamentals, and has a strong desire to build the hockey program from the youth level all the way up to the high school team. We are excited about the energy and past experiences Michael brings to our program."
In Weiss' year as an assistant with the Tigers he got to see a hockey environment in the southwest part of the state that is a little different than what he had grown used to in Moorhead. The Spuds have nearly as many state tournament appearances (14) as the Marshall Tigers have years of existence (16). Though hockey will likely never be as big in southwest Minnesota as it is up north, Weiss found that there's clearly room for the sport to grow in Marshall.
"It didn't seem like there was as much excitement around the program and everything like that like I'm used to," Weiss said. "(In Moorhead) there are golf tournaments every summer supporting the hockey program. We started seeing some of that excitement (in Marshall) towards the end of the year when we got to the playoffs and to state and hopefully that will continue on through next year."
Weiss knows that building a strong program starts from the ground up and, though he doesn't have set plans yet, he would like to be involved in the Marshall youth program and start some fall clinics, have more skill-oriented practices and possibly also have a summer camp.
Looking towards next season with the Tigers, Weiss will have a tough task ahead of him if Marshall is to match the success it had last year. The Tigers lose 10 seniors from their 2012-13 squad, though they do return goalie Mason Campion, who set state tournament records for saves in regulation (58) and saves in a period (28) in his team's consolation game against Duluth-Marshall.
"I think we have a really good outlook," Weiss said. "Obviously we have Campion back in net and will have a strong 'D' core coming back along with some good forwards with (Andrew) Bell, (Blaine) Moran and (Brent) Haukom. I think we'll have a good foundation and we'll see what we have with the younger guys coming up."