by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel has won six Big 10 championships since taking charge of the Buckeyes' sideline in 2001. He has a record of 99-21, and his 2002 national championship team was the first college football team to finish with a 14-0 record since 1897.
Tressel, of course, is often given credit for more than just victories — in fact, he's credited just as often with creating a "culture" for one of the nation's most respected football programs.
It should come as no surprise, then, that new Ohio State men's hockey coach Mark Osiecki looks to Tressel himself for advice and guidance, as the former Wisconsin assistant readies himself for his first NCAA head coaching job.
"I like the thoughts that he has," says Osiecki. "And the culture that he brings is something we're going to build off of."
Typically, "culture" might entail a combination of knowledge, values, attitudes, and experience — all translated into collective behavior.
For Osiecki, the "culture" of a hockey program may have nothing to do with hockey at all.
"It's not just about hockey," said the 8th head coach in Buckeyes history. "It's about life. We want kids who are going to come in and not just mature as hockey players but mature as people away from the rink.
"Our goal is to develop the culture that we think Ohio State hockey is going to bring to the table. That has to be the goal from day one. Our opening meeting with the team, that's what we talked about. We didn't talk Xs and Os."
Osiecki takes over a team that finished 8th in the CCHA regular season a year ago. And as he prepares for his first season in Columbus, his comments have been diplomatic.
But they don't hide his feelings about the players, including 11 seniors, whom he has inherited.
To put it succinctly: the Buckeyes hockey program and its players may be in for a culture shock. Some of that has already taken place, with some players being let go from the team, albeit with scholarships intact.
"It's positive on the front that there's definitely going to be a handful of these kids who are tremendous, very good hockey players, who are going to grasp what we're talking about here," said Osiecki. "And it's going to help their careers. In the big picture of our program, we're able to move out 11 seniors and bring in a new culture.
"You'd like to have more youth this year, but at least next year we can bring in some youth and create that culture that we're talking about here."
Needless to say, Osiecki is looking to the future. But to help his team move forward, he carries with him some wisdom from the past.
Osiecki names three individuals as his coaching mentors — his father, who is currently an assistant with the Minnesota women's team; Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais, whom he says is "like a second father" to him; and Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves, whom he credits with helping him attain "a master's degree in coaching."
Said Osiecki, "I used to carry a black book around and take notes on all the coaches that I had. I still have that book with me today, and it's something I will look back on."
As the culture begins to change in Columbus, fans of Bowling Green and Western Michigan may witness similar overhauls — thanks to the arrival of their respective new head coaches, Chris Bergeron and Jeff Blashill.
Both Bergeron and Blashill have used the word "culture" in their preseason comments to the media as well. It's a buzz word in the CCHA this season that is, without question, easier said than... created.
"We're a new staff, so we've got to try to give them what we want and have them feel our passion," explained Osiecki. "We have to try and create our culture."
By the sound of it — thanks to the vision of Osiecki's staff and thanks to the example set by another Ohio State coach — that process appears to have already begun.