Hastings enjoying his adjustment from Omaha to Minneapolis

Assistant Hockey Coach Hastings

Stephen Maturen

Assistant Hockey Coach Hastings

The winningest coach in U.S. Hockey League history, Mike Hastings, has found a new home at Minnesota. Well, call it a sort of homecoming. After 14 seasons and 529 career wins with the Omaha Lancers, the Crookston native returned to his home state this year to take on an assistant role with the Gophers menâÄôs hockey program. Just more than halfway into his first season with the team, Hastings is already feeling right back at home. âÄú[ItâÄôs] been fantastic. The biggest adjustment was moving from one great place to another, and leaving a great group of people,âÄù Hastings said. âÄúBut the people here have been phenomenal from Don [Lucia] and John [Hill] to the whole team.âÄù But things werenâÄôt always so phenomenal. HastingsâÄô predecessor âÄî Mike Guentzel, who now serves as an assistant coach for Colorado College and ironically was also HastingsâÄô predecessor at Omaha, didnâÄôt exactly get a loving goodbye when he resigned last summer. And when Hastings was named GuentzelâÄôs replacement, some fans denounced the hire and said an âÄúMâÄù guy âÄî meaning someone who went to the University âÄî should have been hired. Hastings, a former St. Cloud State defenseman, understands where fans were coming from and maintains he wasnâÄôt offended by the negative feedback. âÄúAll I can do is try not to let those people down.âÄù So far the Gophers assistant hasnâÄôt âÄî even when his boss went down with an unknown illness. With Lucia still recuperating, Hastings said his role hasnâÄôt changed nearly as much as that of Hill, who served as the interim coach and handled the majority of media responsibilities. âÄúThese guys did a tremendous job,âÄù Don Lucia said of his assistants. âÄúTheyâÄôre doing 80 percent of the work, and IâÄôm doing 20 percent.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs players have come to appreciate Hastings too. Junior forward Tony Lucia, who played for Hastings in the USHL, said heâÄôs noticed a little change in his coachâÄôs attitude. âÄúHeâÄôs more of a playerâÄôs coach now,âÄù Tony Lucia said. Hastings actually enjoys being out of the head coachâÄôs spotlight âÄî something he says allows him to âÄúhave an impact young men on and off the ice.âÄù âÄúDonâÄôs the one who has to be out front, dodging bullets,âÄù Hastings said. âÄúStanding back is not that bad.âÄù Hastings still has a minority ownership stake in the Lancers, but said heâÄôs given up all responsibilities with the organization that he served as president and general manager for until his hiring at Minnesota. âÄúI donâÄôt miss the business side [of hockey],âÄù Hastings said. And jumping to the college game has given Hastings more time for family âÄî his wife and two children are regulars around Mariucci Arena on game night. Far fewer games and an easier road schedule gave Hastings a recent chance to sneak back to Omaha. During MinnesotaâÄôs break last weekend, Hastings was inducted into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame for his successful coaching career. The two-time USHL Coach of the Year and five-time General Manager of the Year joined the likes of Terry Sawchuk, Gordie Howe, and Frank Serratore in the enshrinement, something that Hastings is still surprised his name was included in. âÄúI thought IâÄôd be in the Buffalo Wild Wings Hall of Fame before I got into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame.âÄù