Hockey’s hires new assistant coach over the summer Ace of a pick-up? - UAA's assistant hockey coach, Louie Mass, takes questions from Seawolf fans during a public Q&A at the Varsity Sports Grill last month. Photo by Adam Eberhardt Full view

Hockey’s hires new assistant coach over the summer

Seventy-eight days.

That’s how long the Seawolves hockey team had a coaching vacancy last spring after head coach Matt Thomas announced the departure of former assistant coach T.J. Jindra at the end of March.

However, the Seawolves would eventually find their man.

Thomas announced Louis Mass as his new assistant June 17.

“We were looking for an experienced individual that had a history of winning and developing players at a high level,” Thomas said in a June press release. “Coach Mass hit on all those points and the fact that he is an Anchorage native proved a no-brainer for us.”

Mass’s experience includes an impressive five-year run with Alaska Aces as an assistant coach. The Aces won two Kelly Cups — the trophy awarded every year to the ECHL champion — in Mass’s first year as an assistant in 2011 before winning it again in 2014.
While Mass acknowledged that his old job offered upward mobility, especially for successful coaches like himself, it was not necessarily what he wanted.

“For me being an Alaskan — I realized not that long ago that I wanted to stay here. This is where I want to make my life,” Mass said. “I look at that career, and especially down the road if I have a family, it’s tough.”

The life cycle of pro hockey coaches is typically short, and moving around a lot is not uncommon as an individual moves up the coaching ladder. In addition to the ever-present reality of a move across the country, professional teams travel like — well, professional teams. The 2015-16 regular season for the Aces includes a month with nine away games with contests in South Dakota, Idaho and Colorado.

With the Seawolves, Mass will have to travel less, and the threat of a move is not as imminent. “This allows me to be in a much more stable environment — theoretically,” Mass said.

And while Mass still has a lot to learn about his new team, he won’t be starting completely from scratch. Mass has helped train some of the Seawolves in the offseason at a training facility he operates during the summer.

Junior defenseman Chase Van Allen has worked out with Mass the past few summers and thinks it was a “terrific” pick-up by the team.
“His defensive knowledge of the game is going to help us tremendously,” Van Allen said.

Van Allen also likes what he’s heard about his coaching style. “He’s really personable, easy to talk to, very approachable if you want to know anything,” he said of Mass.

As for the Seawolves he has yet to meet, well, that’s part of what Mass loves about coaching.
“There are always new people you’re involved with and there are new challenges,” Mass said. “It’s never static.”

The Seawolves start the season in Soldotna in an exhibition against Mt. Royal Oct. 2.

Written by Nolin Ainsworth