The men’s hockey team is losing its No. 2 coach.
The Indiana Ice, a team in the amateur United States Hockey League (USHL), announced Wednesday morning that it had hired Kyle Wallack as general manager and head coach. Wallack, who was Yale’s associate head coach and recruiting director, joined the program in 2006, soon after head coach Keith Allain ’80.
“It’s a league where it’s more of a business than the college game, but there’s an opportunity to be a head coach and that’s been a goal of mine,” Wallack said. “I’m excited to see where it takes me, and hopefully I can come back and coach at Yale one day.”
Wallack was known at Yale for his recruiting. His efforts helped draw the key pieces of the Elis’ recent successful teams to New Haven from as far away as California and British Columbia.
“[Wallack] gets to know your family, not just you,” said forward Chad Ziegler ’12, a native of Alberta, Canada. “He shows an interest in you as a person just as much as a hockey player. That’s a major thing to prospective players.”
Yale had a losing hockey program when Allain took over and hired Wallack as his second in command. But the pair have elevated the Elis into the national spotlight in recent years by building around undersized, speedy forwards and with recruiting coups that included bringing USA Hockey’s 2009 Junior Player of the Year Andrew Miller ’13 to campus.
Players said that the personable manner that helped Wallack as a recruiter carried over to the ice and locker room. Goaltender Nick Maricic ’13, whose first contact with Yale was with the coach, described Wallack as a vocal presence who pointed out what players were doing wrong but also had a sense of humor. That sense of humor included a bet in January that Ziegler — who is known for being vocal about his Canadian heritage — could not go a week without mentioning the name of his home province. Wallack won.
“I think his ability to make guys laugh helped us to keep things in perspective during rough times the last few seasons,” Maricic said.
Wallack — a Connecticut native who started at goalie for all his four years at Springfield College — had coached for the University of Connecticut and Holy Cross before joining the Bulldogs. He said that he grew enormously as a coach during his time at Yale and with Allain.
“If [Allain] hadn’t given me the stamp of approval, I don’t think I would have left,” Wallack said. “I’m sure I’ll be on the phone with him next year quite a bit picking his brain on different situations.”
Wallack may be making those phone calls from North Dakota, Nebraska or Ohio. Each state has at least one team in the USHL, a junior league that players enter to hone their skills and earn the attention of NCAA and NHL scouts. It includes athletes as young as 16 and as old as 20. Those players — many of whom finish high school while with their teams and move away from home to enter the league — can be drafted or traded during their time in the league.
Former Indiana head coach and general manager Charlie Skjodt was promoted to president of the club on May 5, leaving an opening at his former position.
“Kyle embodies everything the Indiana Ice stands for here in Indianapolis,” said team CEO Paul Skjodt, Charlie’s brother, in a press release Wednesday. “The most impressive part of his stay at Yale was his ability to not only recruit, but to build a team of student athletes that require the highest standards of education to gain entry and still win at the college level.”
Wallack said he officially signed with the Ice over the weekend. His contract runs through 2013–14, according to a press release announcing his hiring.
On Tuesday, Wallack emailed the Yale team to announce his departure.
Nine members of the 2010-11 Elis played in the USHL, and former star goaltender Alec Richards ’09 skated with Indiana for a year before he came to Yale.