Chris Carroll was introduced as the new Blaine boys’ hockey head coach to a standing ovation during a team meeting of returning Bengals hockey players before the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Carroll, a Roseville Area High School graduate, joins Blaine after 10 seasons as an assistant coach at Bethel University.
When asked to describe his coaching style, Carroll said: “I care about the character and heart of the players. Not to say the systems, structure and skills take a back seat. However, hockey is a vehicle. It’s a vehicle to teach life. There are many opportunities that happen within the context of hockey (good and bad) that can be used shape the character of these kids.”
“He knocked our socks off,” Blaine Activities Director Shannon Gerrety said, adding that he is very excited about the future of the program with Carroll as head coach. “Once I heard him speak about his philosophy about how he treats the kids, accountability and his foundation as a man and leader, he aligns perfectly with what we are trying to do at Blaine and I was just blown away by him.”
Gerrety said that the two have had a handful of occasions to speak since the first interview and he remains confident in their decision. “He’s grounded and secure and he’s a winner. For me, that’s the guy I want leading our kids.”
Carroll played four seasons for the Royals from 2000-2004 in addition to the baseball team where he captained each team.
He is also an associate professor in the human kinetics and applied health sciences department at Bethel University, with a Ph. D. in exercise physiology from the University of Minnesota.
Carroll said he understands how the body responds to stress, specific to hockey. “I have a pretty good grasp on how to prepare the players for the season and maximize injury-free performance all season,” he said.
Blaine and Bethel have had many connections over the years ,with previous head coach Dave Aus taking over at Blaine after time as an assistant with Bethel. Blaine graduates Tony Larson and Danny Harper were the most recent Bengals to play for the MIAC program.
“I have known those two since they were peewees and are two of the best kids I have ever gotten to work with,” Carroll said. “They certainly came to mind when thinking about the types of kids I would get to be surrounded by every day.”
Carroll said he talked over the position with former Bengals head coach Dave Aus, who moved on to Brainerd earlier this spring.
“I’ve known Dave since he started at Blaine and to see where he has grown with this program was very attractive,” said Carroll, who lives in Shoreview with his wife Carissa and son Luke. “There are certain expectations that he set to make this program successful and some of those take a lot of time and energy. It certainly makes the transition much smoother.”
Carroll has worked with other Bengal alumni during off-season workouts and said, “they were very encouraging in this process as well.”
Making the transition from college to high school might seem backwards from what is normal, but Carroll welcomes the chance to see the game through a different lens.
“Much more attention goes into the Xs and Os at college where in high school you can match up your five guys with their five guys and based on talent alone will win more so than in college because of the level of parity,” he said. “Systematically speaking, you can appropriately bring some of that to the high school level.”
Only weeks into the new position, Carroll said from off-season workout experience with some of the younger varsity players that the future is bright for Blaine, despite a large group of seniors graduating this past year.
“There are some kids waiting in the wings to compete with Riley Tufte and Luke Notermann and a handful of other kids that simply didn’t get tons of ice time on varsity due to the depth of that senior class,” Carroll said.
Blaine is a higher profile hockey program that hasn’t won a state title since 2000, despite six straight section titles from 2006-2011 and is a perennial top-20 ranked program in Class AA.
“Dave and his staff did so much to put Blaine on the hockey map,” Carroll said. “A couple bounces may have changed this … Its hard to find something that wasn’t been done in the past that would have changed any of the outcomes to win a championship. We will strive to control the things that we can control. However, when success is only defined on the ice, many things may be overlooked.”
Drawing on the thoughts from recent professional championship winning teams, Carroll said so much depends on the heart and character of each kid.
“We have so much defined by wins and losses but when you step back, you realize you’re dealing with 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds,” he said. “You can develop character with losses that don’t go your way and find a good way to embrace that adversity and develop the heart so that’s the stuff that you can rely on later in life … We strive for them to chose well and chose a good attitude because that shapes character.
“You see and hear about teams devoted to each other winning championships.”
He described that devotion to the team as a collective goal instead of several personal goals. “Character really trumps Xs and Os and when you care about the kids and do it right, the wins and losses usually take care of themselves.”
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