Sept. 12, 2003
By Tori Blainey
Being new to the college hockey scene has recently appointed Notre Dame hockey assistant coach, Layne LeBel, excited about the season to come.
For LeBel, what makes NCAA athletics so attractive is that it also incorporates the educational training that is necessary for success in the future, outside of hockey.
“Education along with athletics is very important” says LeBell. “The NHL is still a route through college hockey.”
“I’ve always loved the college game, the college environment. Everything about it is very appealing” says LeBel, who joined the Irish coaching staff on September 1 after two years behind the bench as an assistant with the Green Bay Gambler’s of the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Coming from the USHL has left much to be learned in a short period of time with the season fast approaching.
A 1994 graduate of Michigan Tech University, LeBel’s previous playing and coaching credentials bring a fresh outlook to the Notre Dame hockey team.
After four years playing on the Huskies’ blue line, the 31-year old former defenseman spent a season in Central Hockey League with the Memphis Riverkings. From there, he spent five successful seasons in the German Division I and II leagues with Duisburg EV and Regensburg.
Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin likes what he’s seen of his newest staff member.
“I think there’s a good chemistry right out of the gate and I feel real good about Layne and our staff,” says Poulin
“We all get along very well, which is good; and yet, already you can see there are interesting discussions that have come up in terms of challenging philosophies or challenging ideas, which is good. I like new ideas.”
The native of Val Marie, Saskatchewan commented, “I think I have some ideas that I can bring and I have a lot to learn. I think Andy Slaggert and Coach Poulin are two good people to learn from.”
LeBel takes over for John Micheletto who moved on to the University of Vermont in August. He’s ready to throw himself into his new job that will include a substantial roll in the recruiting department, an area he has extensive experience
Poulin explains, “Layne has recruited the exact same kids we have but at an earlier stage because he recruited for the USHL. So he’s going for the exact same quality individual.”
Two of those quality individuals can be found on the Irish roster this year. Incoming freshmen Noah Babin and Wes O’Neil are both products of the Green Bay Gambler’s organization.
LeBel looks forward to the coming season. “I know the [Notre Dame program] has continued to make strides and I’m excited to be a part of that as it continues,” says LeBel.”
Open ice skates for the Irish started on Wednesday, September 10th. These practices are traditionally run by the team captain(s) since NCAA regulations do not permit the Irish coaching staff to join the players on the ice until September 26.
Senior Aaron Gill is the only returning captain from last year’s squad and a decision will be made shortly on the alternate captains. Poulin acknowledges that this will not be an easy decision stating, “We certainly have a lot of quality individuals to choose from.”
There may be no better choice for captain than Gill. At 6-0, 181-pounds, Gill is one of the top forecheckers in the CCHA. A strong two-way player who uses his head and has a gift for developing plays, the Rochester, Minn., native is a respected leader.
From the moment Poulin steps on the ice, his mind will be set on one thing – the opening game of the season.
Exactly one week after regular practices begin (October 3), the Irish will face the University of Western Ontario in an exhibition game at the Joyce Center.