David Nies, associate head coach of the USHL’s No. 1 team, the Tri-City Storm, is the guest on the latest episode of New England Hockey Journal’s “RinkWise” podcast.
Nies, the Brookline, Mass., native who played at Brookline High before embarking on a junior and Division 3 college playing career, has been a coach at the college and junior levels and an associate in the USHL for the last three seasons with the Omaha Lancers and Storm. He joined RinkWise from Kearney, Neb., via video conferencing to talk about his own experiences as a player and how that led him to coaching. Nies worked his way up from volunteer assistant at Ohio University to Curry College to video coach under Mark Dennehy at Merrimack College. He spent one season as an assistant coach in the NAHL for the Amarillo Bulls, then moved up to the USHL.
Highlights from the podcast:
On how he got into coaching:
Nies: I felt I left a lot out there as a player. Honestly, I didn’t really understand what it took to be a player, probably until later on in my career. But I felt like I had a lot left to give and I wanted to give back to to the younger players. And obviously, I love the sport, the camaraderie of it. You know, the competitiveness is something that I love. … It was my fifth year (at University Southern Maine) where I was finishing up some classes where I was asked to join the staff and kind of just stand on the bench and boy, was it fun. It was really fun, and I felt a little bit of that competitiveness that I was kind of missing when my (playing) career ended.
On the benefits of playing multiple sports as long as possible before focusing on hockey:
Nies: I think you develop different skills, whether it’s like hand-eye coordination with baseball or running and cutting in football. I just think you develop different skills that help you on the ice. But I also think, most importantly, the mental toll it takes on putting your equipment on practicing, taking it off, obviously showering and doing that for an entire winter. I mean, you have to step away a little bit. With our guys (in Tri-City), we have to give them days off … sometimes we have to essentially kick them out of the rink just so they have that, that mental sharpness when they do come back into the rink. And that’s kind of it, it’s just to keep your mind sharp, you want to want to keep coming back for more. And some people think that by playing hockey year-round that you’re going to get better for sure, but you might develop better skills and all that stuff. But I think the wear and tear on the body, especially in a physical sport like hockey, you know, the body needs rest.
On what to keep in mind when recruiting and building a team:
Nies: In terms of building a team, I got some great advice. Way back when, I always used to go to games and say, Oh, this kid’s good, this kid’s good, but maybe they’re all the same type of player. You’re trying to build a team, you’re trying to build a first line to a fourth line. You might go watch a game and you might see a kid who plays third or fourth line, but you know, he’s really effective in that role. So to me, that translates to going to the next level and accepting and being effective in that role. So I think you need to build a roster from the top to the bottom. But mainly (you want) guys who buy in to that role. So, you know, it’s tough. It’s tough to see the little nuances of a player’s game and try to decipher which player is going to make it. But I’ve always felt that you just have to go with your gut and trust your eye and what you see.
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