Wednesday, May 13, 2009

G-Po Returns to U Hockey!

The man who scored the most significant goal in recent Golden Gopher Hockey history is returning to campus. The team announced that Grant Potulny will serve as a volunteer assistant coach for the team this fall, after retiring as an active player this past season.

Potulny suited up for 146 games for the Gophers between 2000-2004, accumulating 68 goals and 48 assists for 136 points. However, it is his overtime goal against Maine in April of 2002 for which he will be remembered fondly by fans of the M&G. The goal clinched the Gophers' first national title since 1979. The captain from Grand Forks, ND then led his squad to the 2003 national title, becoming the first repeat NCAA Champions since Boston University in 1971-1972.

Potulny turned pro after the 2003-04 season, signing with the Ottawa Senators. His pro career was spent entirely in the minors, and was wrecked by injuries.

Having Potulny on staff seems a no-brainer for the Gophers. His leadership abilities were present during his time at the U, where he was a three-year captain, and always led by example. Even then, he exhibited qualities which seemingly prepared him for coaching.

I love this move. At the NCAA West Regional this spring, a bunch of Gopher fans were sitting around a table and lamenting upon the past season. On a whim, I threw out the question of who would replace Don Lucia behind the bench some day. We all agreed - well, most of us - that Lucia will be around for a long time. I threw out the following scenario. The first call should be to George Gwozdecky. If he says "no," then the Gophers should hire Grant Potulny (assuming that Lucia would have him on staff already). This is no slight to current assistants John Hill or Mike Hastings or past assistants (Bob Motzko, Mike Guentzel, Dean Blais, among others). However, Potulny seemed to be an intriguing choice - similar to what North Dakota did in hiring Dave Hakstol after Blais went to the NHL. Bringing in a former captain and on-ice leader to relate to the players would seemingly be optimal for the Gophers, as it was when Hakstol was hired at UND. Bringing Potulny on board Wednesday could be the first step toward a succession plan for Lucia - hopefully 10 years and a few more national titles down the road.

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