Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 17
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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SPECIAL GUY: Guy Gadowsky directs the Princeton University men’s hockey team in action last season. Gadowsky agreed on Easter Sunday to become first head coach of the Penn State men’s hockey program, ending his seven-year tenure guiding the Tigers. During his time as head coach at Princeton, Gadowsky rebuilt the program into a winner, posting a 105-109-15 record with an ECAC Hockey title and two NCAA tourney appearances.

Gadowsky Leaving PU Men’s Ice Hockey To Launch Penn State’s New D-I Program

Bill Alden

Guy Gadowsky knows what it takes to build a struggling ice hockey program into a winner.

Arriving at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 1999, he took a men’s hockey team that had lost more than 20 games a year in the previous five years, and made them into a CCHA (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) contender, guiding the Nanooks to a 22-12-3 record in his third year at the helm.

In 2004, he headed east to become the head coach of a Princeton University men’s hockey program that had sunk to the cellar of ECAC Hockey, going a combined 7-50-4 in the two seasons before his arrival.

In Gadowsky’s fourth season at Princeton, he guided the Tigers to the 2007-08 ECACH championship and the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.

Now, Gadowsky is facing his most daunting building job as he agreed on Easter Sunday to become the first head coach of the Penn State men’s hockey program.

For Gadowsky, 43, the challenge and opportunity that Penn State presents was too enticing to pass up.

“I think it was pretty well known for a while what Penn State was doing here,” said Gadowsky, referring to the $88 million gift the university received from Terrence and Kim Pegula last September to build a state-of-the-art ice arena and establish an NCAA Division I men’s hockey program as well as a women’s team.

“It is a tremendous athletic department with a great school; it is a tremendous opportunity. I put my hat in the ring partly because of what I have learned from Gary Walters [Princeton Director of Athletics]. He emphasizes leadership based on values. I have really bought into that and its importance in the long term. I see the same values at Penn State. It has the highest graduation rate of BCS schools; they do things right.”

Giving up his leadership position at Princeton wasn’t an easy thing for Gadowsky to do.

“It was very hard,” said Gadowsky, who guided the Tigers to a 105-109-15 record and two NCAA tourney appearances in his seven-year tenure.

“We have had a lot of success. All the coaches have had opportunities to make moves over the last four-five years but we stayed because we loved the guys and believed in the program. No one was looking to move on. It was the perfect storm; it was a unique opportunity.”

In meeting with the Princeton players last Sunday afternoon, Gadowsky’s love for his players got the best of him. “That was a train wreck; I sort of lost it,” recalled Gadowsky, who guided the Tigers to a 17-13-2 mark this past winter.

“It was very, very difficult. I tried to stammer out a few words. I didn’t think it would be that hard. The truth is that being part of these guys has been the highlight of my hockey career. I have learned so much from them and how they do things. I really admire them.”

Gadowsky knows he has a lot to learn as he starts the Penn State program from scratch.

“I have to get a good handle on how the academics and scholarships fit together,” said Gadowsky, whose new program will remain a club team this winter before starting Division I competition in the 2012-13 season

“I know there are a lot of great coaches at Penn State I can learn from. There is a club team in place. They asked me whether I wanted to just recruit or coach that. I told them I want to coach that team; it will be a blast. It is my first class at Penn State.”

In the view of Ed Benkin, the radio voice of the Tigers for the last decade, the classy Gadowsky certainly made Princeton hockey a blast during his tenure.

“Guy knows how to build a program; like Bill Parcells, he can turn a loser into a winner,” said Benkin, noting that Gadowsky helped spearhead renovations of Baker Rink and the construction of the Ken Scasserra Friends Room, a meeting place for players and alums overlooking the southwest corner of the rink.

“In addition to being an excellent coach with Xs and Os, he can relate to anybody. He is such a good people person. He made you feel good about Princeton hockey. He had an appreciation for the program and its history and he passed that on to his players. He also put in a style that was freewheeling like the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s when the rest of the league was using a duller approach like the New Jersey Devils.”

Princeton Director of Athletics Walters felt good about Gadowsky’s style.

“We are thankful for the tremendous job that Guy has done as the head coach of hockey at Princeton over the last seven years,” said Walters in a statement, noting that the school will conduct a national search for Gadowsky’s successor.

“He has built a tremendous program and leaves us in a good place. Guy is the epitome of understanding the role athletics plays in the educational process at an Ivy League institution. He is a great role model and every constituency on our campus will sorely miss him. We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”

In Gadowsky’s view, he has left a good foundation in place at Princeton for his successor.

“I feel very good about where it’s going; the program has endowments for the first time,” said Gadowsky.

“The leading scorer this season was a freshman [Andrew Calof] and we had a freshman goalie [Sean Bonar] who was among the league leaders. The future looks bright.”

While Gadowsky doesn’t know what the future holds for him, he hopes to be at Penn State for a long time.

“It is something I couldn’t pass up; I am hoping this is my destination,” said Gadowsky, who has two sons, Mac and Magnus, and a daughter, Mia, with his wife Melissa.

“I appreciate all the values that Penn State represents as well as the spirit on the campus and their passionate fans. In everything Penn State does, it goes all out. It doesn’t do anything 99 percent.”

And Princeton fans have certainly appreciated the 100 percent effort they got from Gadowsky as he built something special over the last seven years at Baker Rink.

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