Gadowsky Takes the Reins
CHN Staff Report
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. Selected comments from Monday's press conference to introduce Guy Gadowsky as the first head coach at Penn State. Gadowsky leaves Princeton after seven years, having taken the Tigers to two NCAA Tournaments and an ECAC championship.
Penn State athletic director Tim Curley:
Since our announcement in September, much has happened to keep us on track to transition the ice hockey program to begin varsity competition in 2012-13, playing an independent schedule and then in 2013-14 to start competition in the new state of the art Pegula Ice Arena.
Last month, Commissioner (Jim) Delany announced the formation of the Big Ten Conference hockey conference. We are extremely excited to add this great sport to the comprehensive and broad based championship sports offerings provided in the Big Ten.
We look forward to joining the storied programs and the strong traditions of our ice hockey colleagues in the Big Ten as a new era begins in 2013.
We believe the quality of competition, combined with the visibility provided by the Big Ten Network, will make Big Ten hockey the destination spot for the best young players in the game.
In November, the Board of Trustees approved Crawford Architects to design the new arena and Mortenson Construction to build it. I'm pleased to report that the design and construction schedule are on target, and I know all of us will be very proud of the end result.
What really stood out (about Gadowsky) was just the tremendous integrity. Just the wonderful spirit that he has, the passion that he has for the sport. But, I think more importantly for us, was the passion that he has for the student athletes and doing right by the student athlete. And building a culture that people will want to play for him.
If there was one thing that just kept coming back was just, again, his passion. The players really buy into his system and the culture that he has and the values that he has. And everyone we spoke to, it just came through and through every single time. It was a great pool of candidates. But at the end he really separated himself that way.
This is exciting. Ever since Joe Battista (associate AD and chair of the search committee) came by to look at the arena (Princeton's Baker Rink) and just get ideas and feelers for what he's doing, and after meeting him for five minutes, I mean, you just want to jump on board and just come here. And I thank him so much for spending the time with me and letting me hear a little bit about the vision he's had, for probably a lot longer than any of us know.
I just love the spirit. My sister in law, Kelsey (a current student at Penn State), that's the reason she came here, is because of the school spirit. She said she wanted to go to the school that had the best spirit in the nation, and she chose here. And I know why. And I wanted to share in that. I wanted a little bit of it.
I think you take a little bit from every experience you've had. But, I don't look at it actually like we're building from scratch at all. We have a great tradition here. You look at the success that the club team (Icers) has had, it's been phenomenal … absolutely phenomenal. And I know there's already a great fan base, not only the student body, but community members, that love hockey. ... So, I think we're well ahead of the game, that's for sure.
One of the reasons this was such a great fit, is that Penn State does things right. They have the top graduation rate among the top football schools. And you never hear anything bad in the news about Penn State. When you hear about Penn State on ESPNews or the news, it's about great things, it's not about bad things. That's extremely important.
At Princeton, the place I was at last, we were led by just a great athletic director (Gary Walters) who led through a foundation of values. I grew to appreciate the values, but I also now grew to understand if you want sustained, long term success, how holding true to those values is very important.
You don't know Joe Battista, do you (to a reporter)? You can't use the word "difficult" if you know Joe. I'm sort of caught in his spell right now. I don't even think that way. I think we're going to play some great programs, obviously, but that's what Penn State expects.
There's going to be a 100 percent graduation rate. But ... we're going to bring in some great athletes. And I'm sure they're going to be asked to sign pro contracts early. We understand that. But aside from that, we're going to stick to the values and the foundation that Coach Paterno started and the whole athletic department follows through with, and we're going to have perfect graduation rates. That's the goal.
After being here, I wanted it so badly. You can't be here without getting caught up in the spirit. And you want to be a part of it. I think that's probably, like my sister in law, probably every other student has felt that. Probably everybody here has felt that. That's the reason why you're here. So it's why I want to be here. And where I was, it was a fog. I was still caught in the Battista spell. I have no idea.
There's some great student athletes in Canada, great student hockey players in Canada. I think they're just going to love Penn State. Obviously the spirit, but other things. ... I think sometimes, where I'm from, in the prairies (Edmonton, Alberta), some of us, we get a little intimidated by big city sidewalks and lights, and I know Kelsey loved it when she came here in comparison to that. I think the Canadian hockey players are going to love it here. They're just going to eat it up. ... We've had a lot of success in Princeton with some of our best students coming from Canada. So it's something I absolutely want to explore. College Hockey, Inc. is doing a great job in educating all of Canadian hockey players on the benefits of college hockey and how exciting it is, and they haven't even seen Penn State yet. So it's going to be a process we certainly look into.
There's a lot of obviously very impressive things about Penn State. But, one of the things that really sort of stuck to me is people can talk values and talk family, but I had the opportunity to meet Coach Jay Paterno. When I was in his office, we were talking about a lot of things, but part of the spirit is what's very important to me. And I would really love my boys, and when my girl gets a little older, to experience the spirit that we have. But I remember looking behind Jay Paterno's chair and he had a picture drawn. It was obviously drawn from one of his children. And it was a picture of a football player and it says: "We are Penn State" and I thought that was the coolest thing … that's what I would love to have from my family. So, I guess the answer is I want to learn how you do things so well but keep a grounded foundation as well.
If you look at college hockey rosters across the nation, you're going to find people from what we call in hockey the MidAm district. There's great hockey here. You have two very successful NHL franchises (in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). You can do a tremendous job in — I don't know how many mile radius — but you can do a tremendous job here. We want to get diversity. We want to add some Canadians and Europeans. I think it strengthens the team aspect and chemistry. But, you can do a tremendous job here.
There's going to be a time when you turn on and watch an NHL hockey game and you're going to say, “I remember when that guy played not only at Penn State but when he played when he was a little nine year old playing down at the rink.” It's going to happen. There's already good talent here, but it's going to get better and better. This facility, I was lucky enough to see the plans, is going to attract not only the best college hockey players but the best hockey players, and we're going to have youth tournaments and it's going to be rocking even at the youth level. In a matter of time you'll see players play for Penn State that grew up playing their youth hockey right here.
The reality of it is, yeah, we're going to face the best programs in the nation, and they've had a bit of a head start on us. But, they don't have our spirit. So, I think we're going to catch up sooner than people think. Hey, there's going to be some tough times. But you know what? I know we're going to have a lot of fun times during those times. And when we finally get this thing rolling, I think we’re going to look back at those years when we've only been a few years in, and we're getting possibly shellacked by one of the Big Ten schools that have had championships and a lot of success, and they're going to enjoy that time because I think they know that payback's going to be coming.