Boasting Extensive Coaching Experience, Hansen Taking Helm of PHS Boys’ Hockey
By Bill Alden
Dave Hansen has been around the game of hockey since he was a preschooler in Morris County.
“I started playing hockey when I was 4 or 5 years old, it was a big sport in Chatham,” said Hansen.
“My cousins played and I was intrigued by it. My dad took me to a public session at a rink and I loved it. I had a chair in front of me, I would fall and he would pick me up to help me learn how to skate.”
Picking up things quickly on the ice, Hansen played club hockey for the Colonials, Rockets, and Devils programs and then went on to star for Chatham High. After graduating from Chatham, Hansen played at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire.
Returning to New Jersey, Hansen got into coaching, starting as an assistant at Montclair High in 1995 and then becoming a head coach at Mt. Olive High and later Madison High.
In his 17-season tenure at Madison from 2004-20, Hansen led the program to unprecedented success, earning over 200 wins.
“I started the program with nine players; I had a lot of fun with it, they definitely listened to me and the systems I wanted to install,” said Hansen, 48, who runs a landscaping business when he is not on the ice.
“We went from nine to 12 to 15 and all of a sudden you have a JV program. I made two steps there. We won the Haas Cup, the Halverson Cup, and the Mennen Cup. We are the only team in Morris County that has ever done that.”
Now Hansen is bringing his extensive coaching experience to Mercer County, taking the helm of the Princeton High boys’ hockey team, succeeding Joe Bensky.
Becoming PHS head coach in a pandemic, Hansen is looking to help his players keep things in perspective.
“I am just trying to incorporate systems with them right now,” said Hansen.
“I am not trying to be like a dad or a teacher; I just talk about the culture of life and what is going on right now. I told them, it is almost like an outlet for you guys. You come to practice and you are having fun. You are just doing your thing.”
Hansen had a lot of fun in his high school career at Chatham. “We were a really good high school team, we were
competitive with teams like Delbarton and Morristown Beard,” said Hansen.
“I was a captain my junior and senior year. It was a really solid group of guys that took the game very seriously. We always were competitive in the states and for the Mennen Cup. I played a lot of minutes my freshman year and that brought me through my career.”
That experience laid the foundation for a solid college career and Hansen’s later desire to get into coaching.
“Going from high school to college was a big jump,” recalled Hansen.
“It was a lot faster, the guys were a lot bigger. I was able to keep up; I had a good college career. I loved the sport so much that is why when I graduated from college, I wanted to make sure I gave back what I was given, growing up as a hockey player.”
It didn’t take long for Hansen to fall in love with coaching. “It was natural, the three teams that I have coached had a lot of the players that are club hockey players,” said Hansen.
“It wasn’t very hard for them to understand the way I want to coach, they already had the hockey IQ.”
Starting to work with his PHS players in dry land training in December, Hansen believes his new charges have a good IQ for the game.
“I was already impressed by how hard they work outside, I am really excited to see what they can do on the ice,” said Hansen.
“If they can balance the school work, family, and the hockey team, we are going to have a huge success. We have to learn how to balance everything. If they can do that, it is going to be a lot of fun. We have a lot of talent that came back.”
In Hansen’s view, a balanced approach is a hallmark of his coaching approach.
“I am not about wins and losses because the wins are going to come,” said Hansen.
“I just feel that if I can make them better people at the end of the season, it is going to make the program better.”
A good work ethic is one of the personal qualities that Hansen will be emphasizing. “What I said to them is hard work beats talent,” added Hansen.
“If you guys work hard in dry land and on the ice, you are going to beat good teams. You outwork them, you are going to win a lot of games.”