The American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) has announced its major awards for 2017. Eight individuals who have made unique contributions to amateur hockey in the United States will be recognized during the 2017 AHCA Convention in Naples, Florida, the men's hockey honorees being recognized on Wednesday, April 26, and the women's hockey award recipients feted on Friday, April 28.
Heading the list of award winners is former Michigan State, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior head coach Rick Comley, winner of 783 games and two national championships during a 38-year career. Comley will receive the John MacInnes Award. Also being recognized among former NCAA head coaches is Jackie Barto, a former head coach at Providence College and the Ohio State University, who will receive the Women's Hockey Founders Award.
All awards will be presented at two dinners taking place at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club in Naples, Florida. Here is a detailed look at each of the eight awards and their recipients.
THE JOHN MACINNES AWARD: Established by the AHCA in 1982 to honor former Michigan Tech coach, John MacInnes, this award recognizes those people who have shown a great concern for amateur hockey and youth programs. The recipients have had high winning percentages, as well as outstanding graduating percentages among their former players. The winners of this award have helped young men grow not only as hockey players, but more importantly, as men.
2017 Recipient: Rick Comley
Rick Comley was one of the longest-tenured and most successful coaches in NCAA history, winning 783 games at three institutions in a 38-year career. He is one of only two NCAA coaches to win NCAA titles at two different schools and he ranks fifth all-time in career victories. His career record was 783-615-110.
A 1971 graduate of Lake Superior State, where he played for the great Ron Mason, Comley started his head coaching career with the Lakers in 1973, taking over for Mason who went on to Bowling Green. Comley would again succeed Mason in 2002, this time at Michigan State.
In three years at LSSU, Comley compiled a 59-49-3 mark and won an NAIA national championship. He then moved on to Northern Michigan University, launching that fledgling program, staying on for 26 seasons and another 538 wins. His first NCAA title came in 1991 in one of the NCAA tournament's most dramatic championship games ever, a three-OT come-from-behind 8-7 win over Boston University. That team went 38-5-4 overall and 25-3-4 in the WCHA. A native of Stratford, Ontario, Comley was one of just three coaches to win regular season titles in both the WCHA and CCHA. (The others were Bill Selman and George Gwozdecky.)
In 2002, he again succeeded his college coach when Ron Mason retired from Michigan State, having won 924 career games, the most in NCAA history at the time. Comley proceeded to win another 186 games in East Lansing, including the 2007 NCAA title. His Spartan teams included 12 players who would skate in the National Hockey League, 15 All-CCHA performers, six All-Americans, and three Hobey Baker finalists.
His 2007 National Champions finished fourth in the CCHA and third in the CCHA Tournament, but went on a magical run through the NCAA Tournament which featured victories over Boston University, Notre Dame, Maine, and Boston College - some of the most prominent programs in college hockey. That team finished with a 26-13-3 record, and each of his first six teams finished with 20 or more victories.
Comley was presented the Spencer Penrose Memorial Award as college hockey's national coach of the year in 1980 and 1991. He was named CCHA Coach of the Year in 1980 and 1981, and was honored as WCHA Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1991. Page One of Five
A four-year letter winner (1967-71) for Ron Mason at Lake Superior State, Comley was a two-time NAIA All-American and served as team captain as a senior in 1971. He was voted the team's most valuable player and won Lake Superior State's Outstanding Athlete Award in 1971. He earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Lake Superior State in 1972 and a master's degree in education from Northern Michigan in 1973.
Since retiring from coaching, Comley has worked as a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks.
2017 Recipient: Jack Barzee
Jack Barzee started his hockey career in the youth program in New Haven, Connecticut, a program built and supported to a great degree by his father. He played high school hockey at West Haven High for three years, then with the New Haven Bears and the Norwalk Home Oilers Sr. amateur teams. He spent five weeks at West Point in 1961 and three weeks in Boston with the 1962 USA National Team before being cut in January.
Looking for a place to play out the season, he joined Don Rizzo of Pittsburgh, his line mate with the US team, who was also cut. He finished out the season playing with the Pittsburgh Nights Senior Team. He would go on to play in Muskegon in the BHL and Windsor, Nova Scotia in the Maritime Hockey League, before joining the Waterloo Black Hawks in 1965. Jack played with Waterloo from 1965-1976, with one season in Green Bay in 1969 and one season in Kusnacht, Switzerland in 1972.
His coaching career started in Nusnacht, Switzerland in 1972 as a player/coach in what was the Swiss B League. Later he would earn USHL Coach of the Year honors in 1977-78, 1980-81, and 1982-83 while coaching Waterloo and then Dubuque.
In Waterloo he was an owner, general manager, coach and player. He was also the USHL Treasurer for two years in 1981-83. He started the Dubuque franchise in 1980 and finished his coaching career five years later in 1985 in Dubuque.
He won USHL regular season playoffs and National Championships – two consecutive League titles with Waterloo 1977-78 and 1978-79; two League and National Titles at Dubuque 1980-81 and 1982-83; one runner-up in the Nationals 1985. His overall record for nine years in the USHL was 341–163–11. In 2004, the USHL awarded him the USHL Distinguished Service Award for his extraordinary contributions to the USHL.
He has served USA Hockey on the Board of Directors in the 70's. He was an Assistant Coach in the 1979 Sports Festival and Head Coach in the 1980 Junior Festival.
He also served as an Assistant General Manager and Assistant Coach on the 1984 USA Jr. National Team and served two seasons on the USA Jr. National Team staff in the player personnel capacity in 2005-2006. Jack served the NHL Central Scouting Service for 23 years and the Washington Capitals as Chief USA Scout for 4 years. He retired from the NHL Central Scouting Service in August 2012.
2017 Recipient: Wally Johnson
Wally Johnson,a 2013 inductee into the College Sports Information Directors' Hall of Fame, is this year's Fullerton Award recipient. A native of St. Albans, VT and a 1971 graduate of the University of Vermont, he was the assistant sports editor of The Burlington Free Press prior to a 41–year career at St. Lawrence in sports information and media relations. He was also a sportswriter and columnist for The Vermont Sunday News and St. Albans Messenger and worked as a commentator on University of Vermont basketball broadcasts prior to coming to SLU. He continued time in the booth doing color commentary on Saint hockey games on the radio in addition to providing home and away articles for various North Country newspapers.
He was named the winner of the Pete Nevins Award for advancement of the field of athletic communications and advocacy for college athletics in the summer of 2012. The 2001 recipient of CoSIDA's Warren Berg Award, the 1995 winner of the ECAC's Irving T. Marsh Award for contributions to field of sports information, he became the first to earn the profession's three major awards with the addition of the Nevins Award. He was also 1971 Vermont Sportswriter of the Year, and has been very active as both a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America and the ECAC Sports Information Directors Association.
He served 25 years on the ECAC-SIDA board and also completed a long tenure as chairman of the CoSIDA Workshop Exhibits Committee. He worked with the Saints' Division I men's ice hockey team since his arrival at St. Lawrence and was the longest tenured sports information director in ECAC hockey. He served as host SID for the 1984 and 1988 NCAA Division I men's hockey championships, the 1982 NCAA Division I Ski Championships at Lake Placid and the 2003 NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Semifinals and Championships in Canton. He has also worked with teams which participated in NCAA championship competition in football, field hockey, men's soccer, men's and women's track and field, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's ice hockey, men's and women's golf, men's and women's lacrosse and baseball during his SLU career.
Wally is an avid golfer and reader who also provided photography for the St. Lawrence athletic web site. Beyond all of the responsibilities and accolades, Wally became a much beloved figure in college hockey both on and beyond the St. Lawrence campus. His selection, as he would appreciate, calls attention to the many sports information directors who have enriched college hockey.
2017 Recipient: Mike Guentzel
One of the nation's top coaches, Mike Guentzel is in his second stint with the Gopher coaching staff. A former Minnesota player and assistant coach, Guentzel first worked for the Gophers from 1994-2008 and then he rejoined the Gopher staff in the summer of 2011, as Associate Head Coach after spending three years away from the program.
Guentzel, a Marble, Minnesota, native who played defense for Minnesota from 1981-85, returned to the Maroon and Gold staff after one year as an assistant coach at Nebraska Omaha during the 2010-11 season. From 2009-10 he was the head coach and general manager of the USHL's Des Moines Buccaneers and he was an assistant coach at Colorado College from 2008-09.
"No one better represents the Gopher Hockey program and college hockey than Mike Guentzel, who is now in his 20th season as a coach for our program," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. "Mike was a great leader on the ice for the Gophers as a captain, and he has dedicated his career to being an equally great coach for us.
"In his 20 years as a coach for our program, Mike has helped Minnesota to a pair of national championships, 15 NCAA tournament appearances, six Frozen Four appearances and 13 conference playoff and regular-season titles. In my opinion, there isn't a better coach in the nation for defensive prospects than Mike, and for that matter, there isn't a coach that cares more about his players and his program than he does."
Prior to his first stint at Minnesota, Guentzel spent two seasons as head coach and general manager of the Omaha Lancers of the USHL from 1992-94. He led the Lancers to a combined 89-39-2 record, including a 23-11 mark in postseason playoff action. In his first season, Omaha won both the regular season and playoff championships.
Guentzel began his coaching career in 1986 as an assistant coach for the St. Paul Vulcans, being promoted to head coach and general manager in 1989. The Vulcans won the 1990-91 Junior "A" national championship, and the following year he was honored as the USHL Coach of the Year. He also served three years as assistant coach with the U.S. National Junior Team under Dean Blais ('94), Jeff Jackson ('95) and Jack Parker ('96). He has been a member of the coaching staffs of six U.S. national teams including serving as the head coach of the Select-17 Team in 1991.
He has also served as an interim head coach for Minnesota during three games and was 2-1-0 as the Gophers' bench boss. He was the acting head coach for the Gophers during their 7-2 win against Michigan Tech on March 9, 1996, in the WCHA Final Five. He also went 1-1-0 as interim head coach during the 1996-97 season against Minnesota Duluth.
The captain of the 1984-85 Gophers tallied 87 career points (12 goals, 75 assists) in 143 games at Minnesota. He graduated from Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in business and human relations. Following his collegiate career, the 1981 draft pick of the New York Rangers, briefly played professional hockey for the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles of the IHL and the New Haven Night Hawks of the AHL.
Guentzel and his wife, Sally, have three sons: Ryan, Gabe and Jake. Ryan played collegiate hockey at Notre Dame, Gabe played at Colorado College and Jake played at Omaha.
2017 Recipient: Pete Sears
Pete Sears is from Lake Placid New York, where he played his high school hockey alongside the likes of future AHCA coaches Bill and Jeff Beaney. Pete was an All American goaltender at Oswego State (1970) in between serving his country in Vietnam. Pete was also a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team, winning the silver medal in Sapporo, Japan. Following his Olympic experience, he played three seasons of professional hockey.
A coach in the Oswego Minor Hockey association between 1973 and 1979, Pete took over as head coach of the Oswego High School team in 1979. He guided the team as head coach until 1998 and then helped out as an assistant until 2001.
Among his accomplishments: 10 league titles, 5 sectional titles, 4 NYS regional championships, 3 time NY state finalist along with 9 NYS Section 3 sportsmanship awards. Pete was awarded the Peter Rush Award from NYS hockey for outstanding service and commitment to the growth of hockey in NYS. He was inducted into the NYS High School Hall of Fame in 2000 for dedication to the sport and his coaching success. Pete is also in the Oswego High School Hall of Fame, the Oswego State University Hall of Fame, and the Oswego State Athletic Line Hall of Fame.
2017 Recipient: George Griggs
George Griggs has been a true follower of Division III women's ice hockey for years. And like Joe Burke, he is not committed to any one team. On any given weekend, George can be seen in Plattsburgh on a Friday, Middlebury on a Saturday, and Amherst on Sunday.
George travels throughout New England and New York on a weekly basis to watch games. He writes clear and objective reports (on the message board), which are truly impartial. He loves to watch this level of women's hockey and he is a true, unbiased fan.
Recently, George has had some serious health problems that has created challenges to keeping the hockey schedule he so obviously loves. Yet, he still makes the long drives from rink to rink that make him such a beloved fan of the sport.
George has been writing and posting his game analysis on the USCHO fan forum for years and his viewpoints are completely unbiased and never negative toward any team or individual. His words are respected by most. For those that cannot see a game on-line or in person, George's game depictions are spot on.
George can be seen at games engaging with parents and coaches alike; he is truly liked and appreciated by all that are around our game.
Said Plattsburgh coach Kevin Houle in nominating George, "At a recent game, I was surprised and saddened to see George looking frail and wearing an eye patch. He explained that he had some medical issues and that it 'is what it is' and that he was excited to watch the game that evening."
This is part of what endears George to the Division III women's hockey crowd and why he is honored with the Joe Burke Award for 2017.
2017 Recipient: Jackie Barto
Jackie (Gladu) Barto was a three-sport athlete at Providence College, graduating in 1984. As an athlete, she captained field hockey, ice hockey and softball, setting records in all three sports. In ice hockey, where she would add to her fame after college, she scored 113 goals, third on the PC career list behind two players she later coached: Cammi Granato and Stephanie O'Sullivan. She was inducted into the Providence Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
While her first coaching job was as PC's head field hockey coach, she soon added assistant positions in both ice hockey and softball and then made her mark as the "Lady Friars" head ice hockey coach. She had immediate success in her first season (1994-95), leading the Friars to an 18-9-4 record and the ECAC Championship. Only a record 5-OT loss to UNH in 1996 prevented a repeat. Overall in five seasons behind the bench at Providence bench, Barto went 70-53-10, her winningest campaign coming in 1996-97 went PC went 20-8-2.
She followed the Providence period by being named the first women's varsity ice hockey coach at Ohio State, serving the Buckeyes from 1999 through 2011. Her 12-year record in Columbus was 191-219-43. Her high water mark came in 2006-07 when she once again won 20 games. Overall in 17 seasons, Barto went 261-272-53.
Often called upon by USA Hockey over the years, either as a coach or a talent evaluator, Barto was head coach of the U.S. National Team, winning a gold medal in 2008.
In nominating Barto, 1976 Olympian and former Bemidji State head coach Steve Sertich said, "I was an assistant to Jackie in 2009 with the US Under-22 Team. We practiced for a week, then played Canada in a three-game series. Jackie was always a role model for female hockey players, and a very knowledgeable coach at the highest levels."
2017 Recipient: Joel Johnson
Joel Johnson has been with the University of Minnesota women's ice hockey program on two separate occasions, from 1999-2004 with Laura Halldorson and 2010-present with Brad Frost. In his 12 years with the program, he has always been the number one assistant coach on the staff and was promoted to Associate Head Coach in 2014.
As an assistant/associate head coach, Joel has played an integral role in helping the University of Minnesota win six National Championships: 2000, 2004, 2012, 2013 2015 and 2016. Said head coach Brad Frost, "I trust Joel completely. He is an incredible communicator and educator. We put him in charge of our defense, PK and DZ coverage and he is also our recruiting coordinator and in charge of our video, among many other responsibilities.
"Joel is a man of incredible character and integrity. He cares deeply about women's hockey and is passionate about impacting the lives of our student-athletes. Like all great assistant coaches, he does not seek the lime light and would prefer to remain unnoticed."
Johnson has helped develop five Gopher defensemen into Olympians and seven Gopher defensemen into All-Americans. He is one of the top "D" coaches in the country.
While he has accomplished so much with Gopher Women's Hockey, he has also for excelled at the international level as well. He is in his third year as the Head Coach of Team USA's Under 18 Team. His team and staff will be trying to win their third Gold Medal in a row, having won gold in 2015 and 2016.