Hill leaves top job at Anchorage to return to Gophers

Aaron Blake

Assistant coach John Hill helped recruit the talent that won Minnesota’s men’s hockey team its national championships in 2002 and 2003, but he didn’t get to be a part of the titles after he left for the head job at Alaska-Anchorage in 2001.

Now, after four years with the Seawolves, Hill will replace his replacement in returning to his former post as an assistant on the Gophers bench.

Former Minnesota assistant coach Bob Motzko’s departure for St. Cloud State on May 31 opened a position Hill said he wanted immediately. His return reunites the original top three from coach Don Lucia’s first two seasons at Minnesota in 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

“Even though I was the head coach in Anchorage, I always wanted to have the opportunity to come back here and work, because we enjoyed ourselves tremendously, and my relationship with Don and (assistant coach) Mike (Guentzel) is as good as it can get,” Hill said. “So as soon as that happened, I thought the time was right.”

Hill said contract issues and the quality of life in Anchorage for him and his wife Patsy Hill made him question how long he would be there.

His assistant coaches both made less than $40,000 and had 10-month contracts. He said he wanted their salaries increased to the level of programs such as Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State and their contracts to be lengthened to at least 11 months, preferably 12.

He also said he wanted a two-year extension beyond the two years left on his contract, but that the assistants’ contracts were the prevailing issue.

Winning four games in the WCHA playoffs the last two years and making the Final Five in 2004 showed progress at Anchorage, and Hill said leaving the program in good shape was important.

He finished his tenure with the Seawolves 39-89-21 overall.

“I think it was working out,” he said. “I think we were headed in the right direction. I just didn’t want to pass this opportunity up.”

Lucia said Hill had the right of first refusal at Minnesota because he left the program in 2001.

Lucia said it was nice to get a former forward and strong recruiter like Hill to replace a former forward and strong recruiter like Motzko.

“I feel, in a lot of ways, we have three head coaches here,” Lucia said. “That’s the way it was when it was John (Motzko), Mike (Guentzel) and myself, and that’s the way it was with Mike and Bob (Hill) and myself. That’s the kind of staff that I want.

“(Hill) certainly helped us get to where we were. Unfortunately for him, he went through the pain the two years here and then he left and didn’t get the reward.”