ASHWAUBENON - It's not often disappointment mixes with relief. That was the emotional concoction felt by Green Bay Gamblers head coach Derek Lalonde after getting a phone call telling him he would not be the University of Denver's next hockey head coach.
"Probably 5 minutes after I received that phone call that they were going to head in a different direction, I wouldn't say I was excited but I felt excitement," said Lalonde.
The second-year Gamblers head coach spent 5 seasons as an assistant at the University of Denver, recruiting many of the players making up the Pioneers current roster. When their former coach, and Lalonde's former boss, was let go, the university contacted him. He decided to interview.
"[I] knew I was going to sleep very well at night if they turned to me or if they didn't," said Lalonde. "That was the case. It was extremely emotional at a lot of ends, I'm glad I can move on."
Lalonde had to leave the Gamblers mid-week while they were preparing for a regular season-ending pair of games against Muskegon. He kept the team in the loop about what was going on, and credits his assistants with preparing his team for what would end up being a pair of weekend wins.
"We talked about it as a team, let's not make this a distraction," said Lalonde.
Gamblers players learned their coach didn't get the Denver job over the weekend, and felt a mix of emotion. After all, said defenseman Brandon Kirk, the USHL is a developmental league.
"He's moving up the ranks, we're trying to move up the ranks," said Kirk. "Bunch of the guys congratulated him, gave him good luck. It was good to see our coach was being recognized for a top coaching position in collegiate hockey."
Lalonde knows there may be more head coaching opportunities in the future. He doesn't rule those out, but says he is not eager to leave the Gamblers.
"I took this job knowing it's a special job, a very unique ownership group," said Lalonde. "I can definitely be here 10-15 years, my family loves it. It's just the reality of our profession and we'll take things as they come."
Lalonde and the Gamblers open up the USHL playoffs with games against the Youngstown Phantoms with home games on Wednesday and Thursday.
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