Newly named East Ridge coach Craig Norwich took to the ice with the high school girls' hockey team. Norwich won state championships at Edina and is a former NCAA Champion, All-American, and NHL player. ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE
Craig Norwich was a heck of a hockey player. A state title, NCAA championship, gold medal and 14 1/2 years in the pros is more than enough to validate that. But after his playing days, the enigmatic defenseman got into construction.
Building hockey programs, that is.
The Edina native and former Wisconsin Badgers standout created the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary's hockey program in Faribault in 1990, which has since churned out 42 NHL draft picks. He then went west to Vail, Colo., and Los Angeles to start Triple-A programs before returning to the Twin Cities and taking on the St. Paul Academy boys' team in 2005.
"I like programs that are kind of new or floundering," said Norwich, who captained the Edina East High School 1974 state championship team and most recently coached the U14 Edina girls. "There's nowhere to go but up."
On Monday Norwich spent his first day on the ice with his next project: the East Ridge girls' high school team.
The Raptors, who finished 6-20-1 last season, have had three head coaches in the school's three-year history. Activities director Trent Hanson believes they've hit a home run with Norwich. The East Ridge administration gravitated toward his vision and "values-based, student-centered approach to teaching the game," Hanson said.
"To be able to connect a dynamic, experienced, highly qualified coach with our young and developing program is nothing short of exciting for our kids and hockey community," he said.
And when it comes to coaching kids, Norwich's philosophy is simple.
"I always tell the kids when I first get in, 'I don't know what kind of coach I'm going to be, but I tell you what, I'll be honest. And if I lie to you, you tell all the kids I'm a liar,'" Norwich said. "I'm fair to the kids. It's just the way I believe it has to be.
"I'm not the most brilliant coach, but I think kids like to play for me."
More concerned about hockey sense than skill, Norwich learned from some of the best, including Herb Brooks, Bob Johnson and John Mariucci. He has adopted many styles and beliefs from the legendary coaches along the way. He doesn't care what happened last year or the year before at East Ridge. Nor does anybody expect them to up and win the talented Suburban East Conference this year.
The consensus is that the program will take some time to build.
"We like to think of it in terms of a three-year plan from competitiveness to contention," Hanson said. "Our goal is to develop a sense of competitive identity and team pride in the program right out of the gate this winter."
In Norwich's short time with the program, he said, he already likes what he sees. He wanted 40 girls to sign up, and 39 did. He won't have to cut anyone and there is young core of girls returning with varsity experience.
"Based on what I've seen from this group, they're not far behind. I'm hoping for good things down the road," Norwich said.
The Raptors open their regular season against Shakopee at 7 p.m. Thursday.
|SCHOOL||2010-2011 COACH||2011-2012 COACH|
|Academy of Holy Angles||Jaime Grossman||Jon Dundore|
|Alexandria||Mitch Loch||Andy Shriver|
|Bemidji||Matt Menne||Bob Brink|
|Brainerd/Little Falls||Rod Peltoma||Stephanie Sustercich|
|Breck||Len Vannelli||Chris Peterson|
|Chaska/Chanhassen||Chris Erickson||Tracy Cassano|
|Cretin-Derham Hall||Steve Williams||John Pohl|
|Detroit Lakes||Dan Maloney||Gretchen Norby|
|East Ridge||Tony Hoops||Craig Norwich|
|Eden Prairie||Tim Morris||Jaime Grossman|
|Faribault||Gretchen Dahl||Steve Gravgaard|
|Forest Lake||Jeff Neidt||Ryan Sauter|
|Lake of the Woods/Rainy River/Indus||Katie Hasbargen||April Beckel|
|Lakeville South||Perry Wilkinson||Natalie Darwitz|
|Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato||Brian Johnson||Hannah Impola|
|Minneapolis Novas||John Wareham||Pat Meacham|
|Mound-Westonka||Bob Kuehl||Chris Erickson|
|Mounds View||Tom Foley||Pete Aus|
|Orono||Kevin Armstrong||Keith Radloff|
|Park Rapids||Chris Albee||Gary Vaudrin|
|Pequot Lakes||Regan Rudbeck||Bryan Henricks|
|Prior Lake||Jaime Grossman||Todd Johnson|
|Robbinsdale Armstrong/Cooper||Joel Zejdlik||Kevin Gray|
|Rochester John Marshall||Steve Russell||Bob Montrose|
|Rosemount||Tracy Cassano||Josh Hoekstra and Trent Eigner|
|St. Cloud||Joel Heitkamp and Mark Chamernick||Mark Chamernick|
|St. Louis Park||Mike Knoke||Donnie Williams|
|St. Paul Blades||Sarma Ozmen||Jeff Hauer|
|St. Paul United||Ted Cheesebrough||Carrie Holldorf|
|Windom||Shawn Veenker||Dean Drahota|