SCHENECTADY — A spotlight on him as he strode across the ice, Josh Hauge was moments away from making his debut as the new head coach of a junior ice hockey team when he heard it.
“Hauge,” one fan shouted, “you stink!”
Hauge kept his head down, then raised it when the opposing coach joked that the heckler must have been a fan of the team’s former coach.
“No,” said Hauge, “it was my father.”
A decade later, Hauge is now the new head coach of Union Men’s Hockey, the college’s flagship athletic program. During a recent interview with The Daily Gazette, Hauge recalled that memory of a game in Dubuque, Iowa, and what his father taught him that day about taking a job of interest.
“People are going to love you – and people are going to hate you,” Hauge’s father, Joel, told her. “Better get used to it.”
It’s a valuable lesson to learn as Hauge resumes a Union hockey program after two consecutive losing seasons and a campaign that included the resignation of Rick Bennett, the Dutch national championship-winning coach. Bennett’s Jan. 28 resignation followed the completion of a school investigation into “his coaching styles and practices,” but the school never detailed its findings. Assistant coach John Ronan finished the 2021-22 season top of the Union as interim head coach.
Hauge, 43, was introduced as Union’s new head coach on April 15 and signed a five-year deal to lead the Dutch. Previously an assistant coach at Clarkson, Hauge has been on the road since joining Union. Two days after being introduced as the team’s new coach, Hauge, his wife Allison, and sons Hanley and Landry flew to Naples, Florida, for the college hockey coaching convention, and began the coaching process. take ownership of the Union’s programme.
“My head is spinning, but it’s starting to slow down now,” Hauge said. “It’s been a lot, but I’m delighted to be here and to have my feet on the ground now.”
Inside Union College’s Garnet Hall, Hauge recently discussed his coaching career and life off the hockey rink. (Questions and answers have been edited slightly for clarity and space.)
Question: You are from Rosemount, Minnesota. Minnesota is a state known for hockey. How long ago did you start skating?
Answer: I was a latecomer. I only started when I was 10. [My] dad was actually a basketball guy, so funny that [I] took up hockey.
Q: Was hockey the first sport you loved? What others have you played?
A: I played a bit of everything growing up — football, baseball, soccer and hockey. But yes, from a very young age, hockey was a bit what attracted me.
Q: What led you to become a coach? What were your influences?
A: If you ask anyone in middle school, high school – everyone thought I was going to be a coach. That’s what I wanted to do, and I was lucky to have great coaches and people who cared about me. My dad was one of them, and a guy named Tom Murphy who coached me from my early days through high school. He and my dad are the two great people who grew up and were influential.
Q: You experimented with having a head coach replaced by the American Hockey League‘s Tri-City Storm in the 2011-12 season and then you were fired 15 games into the 2013-14 season. How was this experience and what did you learn from it?
A: When we took over it was an exciting time, and everything was so new and everything worked exactly the way I wanted it to. I had just had the experience of coaching in Fairbanks and having great success there. We ended up having a great run and making the playoffs, and then I felt really good where I was. As things progressed, I thought I changed my style to appease the property, to appease other people, and that was my downfall. . . . I didn’t run things the way I wanted, due to the pressures of ownership and coaching from someone whose kid was on the team. Things like that were a bit more difficult. But I really enjoyed it, and it was a great learning experience for me.
Q: You mentioned in your introductory press conference that your son Hanley suffered a neonatal stroke. Can you discuss this situation and how your family had to deal with it?
A: It happened when I was in Tri-City and I was the head coach there. Hanley was born and we were in the hospital, and we found out he had had a stroke. So we were transported to [a hospital in] Omaha [Tri-City plays in Kearney, Nebraska]. I think the day before we were transported, that’s where I was released. So basically your whole world fell apart. You coach in the USHL, you think you’re destined for great things and to be compared to great coaches, and then all of a sudden your baby is born, he’s in the hospital [and] things are not going well. It was a really difficult time in my life. [Hanley] came out just before Christmas, so it was nice to be able to spend Christmas with the family and get out of the hospital. It was probably the best Christmas present you could ask for.
Q: How is Hanley now?
A: He’s awesome. There is nothing wrong with him. He is in perfect health.
Q: How did you end up as an assistant coach at Clarkson?
A: My boss in Fairbanks, Alaska was Rob Profit, and he knew Casey Jones very well. I had wanted to get into the college game for a long time, and it was something I was striving for. When the position opened up, I called Rob right away and asked him to call Casey, and he did. I spoke with Casey, and it immediately seemed like a good fit. He offered me the job quite early in the process. I had never been to Potsdam, New York, and took the job unnoticed.
Q: When the union position opened up after the end of the season, what attracted you to this position?
A: When Rick [Bennett] left, I asked Casey to reach out and make a call on my behalf and just see if they were going to do something, or what they were going to do somehow. I was pretty active and chasing him. It was, for me, a place where I thought, “You can turn the tide and you can get it started.” I think there are a lot of great tracks here, so I was excited about that. And just the opportunity to live in a place like Schenectady, I was really excited.
Q: When Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin announced that you were the next head coach of the Union men’s hockey team, what was your reaction and that of your family?
A: Well, I was actually running a youth practice when . . . He called. . . . So when I got it, I couldn’t call my wife right away. This is probably one of the worst youth workouts I’ve ever run because a lot of things were going through my mind. I got out of the ice cream, took my two boys to get some ice cream and said, “Hey, are you ready to move?” I had already taken the job. I took it well when he offered it. So I talked to them, then I called my wife. All of a sudden now it’s like there’s a lot to do, everyone’s excited, and then it dawns on you that you have a lot to do.
Q With sports scholarships and a new arena on the horizon, how does this help you recruit?
A: I think it makes a huge difference. You have the opportunity to be on an equal footing. Some of these schools offer the possibility of going to school for free, and we do not have this at the moment. But that’s one of the things that they’ve had success with no scholarships. So I think that will make things easier. And then the new setup, I think it just keeps the momentum going. You can get a little buzz from a coaching change, then you get a little buzz from getting the scholarships – and, then, a new building. I just think it rolls the ball downhill.
Q: Any update on the status of assistant coaches John Ronan and TJ Manastersky?
A: Right now they’re both working with me and getting to know each other, and I’m really happy with how they’ve been. It’s a tricky situation every time someone comes along. We will continue to evaluate as we go, but we are enjoying working with them at this time and getting to know them. I would say here in the next few weeks we will make a decision on what is best for Union.
Q: Let’s have fun here to wrap up. What type of music do you like?
A: I guess I’m more of an ESPN Radio type person. I don’t listen to a ton of music.
Q: Favorite TV show?
A: “Breaking Bad”.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: I guess I’m going with the “Shawshank Redemption”.
Q: What is your favorite sports team?
A: Almost all of Minnesota is what I’m cheering for, even though the Minnesota Wild traded Nico Sturm, so I switched alliances to Colorado for the playoffs.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: Oh yeah, I don’t know if I have one in particular. But I really appreciate the players I’ve coached and being able to track their success afterwards. [college]. I think the guys I coach and I’m able to watch are my favorites.
Q: What would you like to say to Union hockey fans?
A: Well, you know, whenever there’s a change, it’s always a difficult situation. I’m excited to start and work with the team and the community. I want to be very involved with youth hockey, with youth sports and the union community. Do not hesitate to come and introduce yourself. I may not be the most outgoing person right away, but once you get to know me, I try to be genuine and try to have really meaningful relationships. I can’t wait to go there.
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