Miami Athletics names Chris Bergeron, Miami alumnus and former RedHawk, head hockey coach
The Club Lounge of the Goggin Ice Center buzzed as Cincinnati television stations set up their cameras on a stage in the back of the room, and alumni, press and Miami staff filed into several rows of seats while current Miami hockey players crammed against the right wall.
The temperature rose as people chatted to fill the time before 1:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, when Chris Bergeron was to be introduced as Miami hockey’s sixth head coach in program history.
After opening remarks from Athletic Director David Sayler and an introduction from former Miami head coach Bill Davidge, Bergeron stepped behind the podium and to the helm of Miami ice hockey.
“Don’t mistake my emotion for lack of excitement, because I’m extremely excited to be standing here right now,” Bergeron said with tears in his eyes, after composing himself.
Miami Athletics announced Friday morning that Bergeron, the former Bowling Green State University (BGSU) head hockey coach and a Miami alumnus, will be Miami hockey’s head coach.
“He’s passionate, he’s loyal, he cares about where he is, and he cares about the kids that he’s coaching,” Sayler said. “I must have had 20 alums call me through this process to recommend Coach Bergeron to me.”
Bergeron called all 20 returning players on Friday and, before the press conference, he met with the RedHawks and introduced himself.
“The transition with Coach Blasi and everything, that was tough,” rising senior forward Karch Bachman said. “It’s been a tough couple weeks for us, with the transition and the uncertainty, but we knew Miami was searching for one guy, and we’re really happy that they got the guy they were looking for.”
The ’Hawks said they could feel Bergeron’s excitement and intensity, as he asked them to choose if they were “all in” as part of his mission to win games and revamp the program.
Bergeron says he will call recruits and ask them to do the same.
“Leaving the meeting, all the players were fired up and ready to play,” rising senior goaltender Ryan Larkin said. “We went away from the meeting, finally getting our first taste of what Coach Bergeron is going to be like, and I think all of us were very, very excited about what he can bring for us.”
Bergeron spent the past nine seasons coaching the BGSU Falcons of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Falcons were 171-154-44 all time under Bergeron, and most recently finished 25-11-5 (16-8-4 WCHA).
The University of Minnesota Duluth beat the Falcons’ 2-1 on Saturday, March 30, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and ended BGSU’s historic 2018-19 season – the Falcons’ tournament appearance was their first since 1990.
“I need to thank Bowling Green,” Bergeron said. “Bowling Green gave me the opportunity to be a head coach and the last nine years, I poured everything I had into it.”
Miami offered Bergeron a contract last Wednesday, according to College Hockey News, and Bowling Green offered Bergeron a new contract on Thursday, according to The Toledo Blade.
Bergeron ultimately decided to return to his alma mater.
“The one place that would get my attention was the one place that called,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron played for the RedHawks from 1989-93 and served as a two-year team captain. From the 1990-91 through the 1992-93 season, Bergeron played with Blasi. The two helped the RedHawks to the program’s first Central Collegiate Hockey Association Championship in 1992-93.
After his collegiate career, Bergeron played professionally for seven years before returning to Oxford as an assistant coach for the 2000-01 season.
Bergeron coached under Blasi for 10 seasons and helped the RedHawks to a 226-139-37 overall record and 161-83-28 conference record. The ’Hawks made six NCAA Tournament appearances, two Frozen Four trips and two first place finishes in the CCHA with Bergeron as an assistant.
“[Blasi] had an unbelievable impact,” Bergeron said, pausing for 10 seconds to compose himself. “He had an unbelievable impact on me as a coach. He called me summer of ’99 after he got the job, and ever since then, he’s had an impact on me as a coach, and me as a human being.”
Bergeron was part of Blasi’s inception of “The Brotherhood.”
“‘The Brotherhood’ is something that is a lifestyle,” Bergeron said. “It’s being the best version of yourself and trying to help the guy beside you to be the best version of himself. That is what it is to me. I’m going to take that opportunity to be the best version of Chris, so I can help everyone around us, and me, be the best version of themselves.”
The Brotherhood has struggled of late and just finished its fourth consecutive season under .500 with a 11-23-4 overall record and 5-17-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference record.
A 15-game winless streak and nine-game losing streak defined the RedHawks’ 2018-19 season. The last time Miami was winless for 15 games was during the 1990-91 season, when Bergeron was a sophomore.
Bergeron is also familiar with tough seasons as a head coach – the Falcons won 10 games during his first season at the helm of the program and suffered three under-.500 seasons before Bergeron pulled the Falcons to an 18-15-6 record in 2013-14.
After that season, Bergeron led his team to five straight 20-plus win seasons, a WCHA Championship in 2016-17 and this year’s NCAA Tournament.
“Because I’m not totally sure of the things that are needed at this time, right now, I’m just going to rely on those experiences [being part of a turnaround] and surround myself with the best people possible, and we’re going to try to figure out what’s wrong and try to fix it,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron is unfamiliar with the NCHC, as it was established in 2011 and hosted its first games during the 2013-14 season when Bergeron was coaching Bowling Green.
For the past three years, an NCHC team has won the NCAA National Championship, and five of the eight NCHC teams, including No. 1 St. Cloud State, were ranked in the USCHO.com’s top-20 poll during the last week of the season.
The last time a WCHA team won a national title was in 1994, but two of the 10 WCHA teams were ranked in the USCHO.com’s poll, including the No. 15 Falcons and No. 3 Minnesota State.
“In my nine years at Bowling Green, I expected to win championships, I expected to go to the national tournament, I expected to win a national title,” Bergeron said. “So my expectations, sounds to me, that they’re the same.”
There is no definite timeline for Bergeron to announce his staff. His first official day on campus is next Monday, Sayler said. In six days, Bergeron will begin the process of trying to lead Miami hockey to a National Championship.
“I can’t be more excited to go to work,” Bergeron said, then turned to address the players. “It’s not going to be a light switch, right fellas?” He turned back to the crowd. “Let’s go to work. Let’s go to work.”