Together At Heart
The Guentzel Family is All Over the U.S., Making Their Mark on Hockey
by Justin Magill/CHN Reporter
When the hockey season rolls around on the calendar each year, it becomes chaos for the Guentzel family.
Three members of the family are prominent figures for some of college hockey's most respected programs.
Mike Guentzel is in his first year as an assistant with Nebraska-Omaha, a team that has garnered an enormous amount of admiration in its first season of WCHA play.
His oldest son, Ryan, once a role player at Notre Dame, is finding himself as one of the leading scorers for the Irish in his senior season with 17 points.
Brother Gabe, a sophomore at Colorado College, has been a regular in all facets, five-on-five, power play and penalty kill.
In addition, the youngest of all the Guentzel's, Jake, just made the varsity team for Hill-Murray High School, a Minnesota powerhouse of prep hockey, the same place his two older brothers attended.
However, it is not only the men of the family that has to manage an action packed schedule.
The one that holds it all together is Mike's wife and mother to all the boys, Sally.
"It's more so my wife that is the busiest of us all," Mike said. "She is trying to sell our home in Woodbury (Minn.) and Jake at Hill-Murray, she does a great job with the guys."
Technology and the Internet have been a blessing for the Guentzel's.
With two playing Div. I hockey and the other on one of the most recognized high school teams in Minnesota, Mike gets the chance to watch games online and with his two son's play college hockey in completely different time zones, the opportunity to see them play more often has been a blessing.
"Colleges have done a fantastic job in allowing people to watch games on their websites," he said. "Ryan plays in the Eastern time zone and Gabe in the Mountain time zone, it allows Sally and I to see the guys more."
Often times on the weekends, Ryan will get a chance to sit down, relax and watch his brother play after his games.
With Notre Dame typically starting its games two hours before Colorado College, Ryan finishes up in plenty of time to catch the Tigers.
"It really has been nice to see him play," Ryan said. "When I am done, one of the first things I do when I get back is try to watch Gabe play and with everything that the Internet allows you to do, being able to watch him has been great."
In the end, it all comes down to Sally, who talks on the phone with her son's after each game if she is not attending the game already.
Every Friday and Saturday night, she is the one relaying all the updates to Mike, Ryan and Gabe, keeping tabs on all three of them while also informing them of what is going on at home.
"She gives us the updates and tells you if you were the winner or loser that night," Gabe said. "We make sure we call her after each game. She does a lot of running around for us and is probably the only person who knows everything that is going on."
"It truly is remarkable what she has done," Ryan added. "Trying to sell our home, with showings every weekend. She comes to our games when she can and has Jake at home with school and hockey. She deserves a lot of credit."
A unique connection that Mike has with his two oldest boys has to do with the leadership role.
It is not just coaching for Mike, who spent 14 years as an assistant at the University of Minnesota and one at Colorado College before taking the same position with the Mavericks.
In his senior season at Minnesota, Mike was selected as captain for the Gophers.
Ryan and Gabe were chosen to captain their respective teams as well this year.
"It makes you proud as a parent that your guys are looked at in that way," Mike said of Ryan and Gabe. "They have done things the right way to get where they are at. I know one of my proudest moments in hockey was when I was selected as captain for Minnesota and I know the guys know what it means to be selected as a leader. It is special as a parent to see your guys in that light."
"There are rewards for doing things right," he added. "and one of them is being a captain and looked at as a leader for your team. The guys were not looked at when they were 15 years old. They went to juniors for two years and got their shot when they were 20."
As a sophomore, Gabe is already pegged and the position has come natural to him.
His father did not add any pressure to his plate of being a captain by telling him and Ryan what they had to do now that they were the leaders on their teams.
"If anything, he told us not to change who we were," Gabe said. "There's a reason why we were chosen as captains and that is because of the people we are already. The coaches and players on your team have respect for you as the person you are."
"He brought us in an environment where we could learn about being a leader," Ryan said. "We got to go in the locker rooms during the Gophers championship years in '02 and '03. You learned a lot from guys like Jordan Leopold and Johnny Pohl. They were great captains and my dad allowed us to see what good leaders can do for a team."
Athletics is not everything to the Guentzel's, who have a strong emphasis in education.
Along with having an outstanding hockey program, Hill-Murray is also a school that prepares its students for college.
Notre Dame is not for the weak and weary when it comes to academics, nor is Colorado College and Ryan, a finance major, and Gabe, economics major, were already equipped heading into college.
"We just didn't send the guys to Hill-Murray for hockey," Mike said. "Yeah, they have a great hockey program, but academics is important. You can't play hockey forever and the guys know that. You have to do something when it is done. Notre Dame and Colorado College, finance and economics, the guys should have a jump with that on their resume."
There is going to be a time when Ryan and Gabe will have to retire the sticks and skates and head to the workforce, so they have put a lot of stock into their education and work ethic outside of sports.
"I want to play hockey for as long as I can," Gabe said, "but if I have to hang them up, I will be ready for the business world.
This has been an aspect of life Mike has brought to the attention of his players at Nebraska-Omaha.
"It's the same thing," he said. "We always tell them to take care of school. It reflects a lot of what happens on the ice, too. We have some good kids that work hard and we don't have to stop practice to scream and holler about effort. They take care of it on and off the ice."
Whatever life has to offer for the Guentzel family, they have proven that they can handle anything.
A busy schedule, hard work and dedication to one another is all in a days work.