This summer the Bozeman Icedogs hired Mark Vichorek to take over head coaching duties with the team. He recently sat down with Kyle Sample of the Bozeman Chronicle to answer a few questions. Sample’s article can be found on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle webage here.
KS: How did the Icedogs get in touch with you?
MV: I had heard that the Icedogs were under possible new ownership and I tried hard to get a hold of Jason Martel, the former owner to inquire about a possible new coach after last season. Steve Harrison, the former coach and I played together professionally and spoke a few times during last season about players and how each of us was doing. I actually got Alec's number from Steve and called him about potentially coaching the Icedogs. Alec asked me to send him my information and resume. A week or two after he received my information he asked if I could come out for an interview.
KS: What was the interview process like, what vision did you sell ownership on?
MV: I thought the interviewing process was very well set up. The group doing the interviews was very well selected and had very good questions covering everything that was involved in what it is going to take to make the Icedogs a winner. My vision for the team is hard work and passion for playing and and the want for the players to move on to the next level. This is about teaching and coaching players on the ice and helping mentor them as young men and being professionals away from the rink. We want to create a family atmosphere for the team and the community to adopt these players as their own and want them to succeed.
KS: How much did you know about the Bozeman hockey program before interviewing?
MV: I was familiar with the Icedogs when they were in the North American Hockey League. My son was signed by the Icedogs in 2006 to play for them before they were sold. My son Taylor was so excited about coming to Bozeman to play because of the team and how beautiful it is out here. That year they were setting records for wins and point totals. This franchise was very successful under John Lafontaine. My goal is to bring this organization back to national prominence.
KS: Considering the Icedogs' recent past, what about the position attracted you?
MV: The challenge to getting back to winning ways was a major attraction for this position. I also said in my interview that it is “Bozeman, Montana”. That in itself is worth coaching here. The ownership was also a major element to come here and coach. As it says on our website: New ownership, a new coach and a new attitude. The past is the past and we need to move forward. Our plan is to get this team back into the community and become household names again. This is a great hockey community and we should be one of if not the game in town for people to come and watch.
KS: How do you go about fixing a team that has seriously struggled to compete and how do you sell players on coming to a team that doesn't really have a winning tradition?
MV: Recruiting is the key to successful teams and bringing in players that want to compete and win. I have recruited and coached for several teams and it all amounts to belief and accountability on and off the ice. I want players that want to get better and move on. The best thing for this program believe it or not, is turnover every year. If I am moving players onward and upward to higher levels then we are successful. My job is to do that very thing. It is all about the players and what we can do for them, but to get there they have to work their butts off and come to compete every single day. I am honest with players and their parents and what it is we want to accomplish, for them and the team. It is important to let them know they will be taken care of when they have worked hard to improve. Those are key selling points to bring in quality players and people.
KS: From your knowledge of the program, what are the biggest setbacks contributing to the Icedogs' struggles?
MV: I think a lack of commitment to the kids and not having them become a part of a community is a major setback to any program. We intend to do both here in the future. It is my job to make these players better on the ice and feel they are part of things in Bozeman happening around them. [New Owner] Alec Nesbit and I are committed to doing both of these things to help make this program successful. It is the present and the future we want to look to and create our own winning traditions.
KS: How does your previous coaching experience lend itself to the challenges ahead?\\
MV: I have been around this game a long time and have had several great coaches throughout my career as a player and a coach. I have coached at the High School, Junior, College and Professional levels. My coaching philosophy and positive teaching experiences have served me very well over the years and have allowed me to be able to adapt to the different styles of players. I also relate very well with this age group of players. I also have a Psychology degree and that also comes in very handy at times. When I played at all of these levels I had to work 100 percent of the time to be successful and that is something all players can do, and we will be a very hard working team.
KS: Your daughter's name is Montana, what is your connection to the State.
MV: I named my daughter Montana only because we loved the name. I was a huge Joe Montana fan but it has no relationship to her name. An interesting tidbit about my daughter after her 4 year college hockey career at Bemidji State University in the WCHA and Team USA she is now in Missoula attending Pharmacy school. Other than having the same name as the state there is no other connection.
KS: Just for biographical purposes, you played extensively in the NHL, what can you tell me about your professional career?
MV: I played 562 professional games in my career. I only played a few games in the NHL and was so close to having a long career but didn't quite fulfill that dream after being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982. I was drafted out of juniors when I played in the USHL for the Sioux City Musketeers. After my 4 years at Lake Superior State University in the CCHA, I signed for 2 years with the Hartford Whalers, which are now the Carolina Hurricanes.
I played for 12 teams in my career and loved almost every bit of it. I had to retire due to a bad back and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I think that is why I am so passionate about letting these players know how short a career can be and to make the most of their opportunities regardless of what level they are playing.
I played with and against some great players and one of my favorite players of all time was Ron Francis when we were in Hartford. He worked very hard and was a class guy all the time and always a professional. Those are all attributes I want to instill in all the players that play for me. After I realized I could no longer play at such a high level I turned to coaching to give back to the game that was so great to me. It also keeps that competitive edge and adrenaline rush to coach and be successful.