Blais named coach at Nebraska-OmahaFormer UND men's hockey head coach Dean Blais has resigned as head coach of the Fargo Force and has been named head coach of Nebraska-Omaha.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
Dean Blais is going back to college.
Five years after resigning as head men’s hockey coach at UND, the University of Nebraska-Omaha has hired the highly coveted coach who made his name by winning two national championships with the Sioux.
Blais was introduced as Omaha’s second-ever head coach on Friday afternoon, just hours after he resigned as the head coach and general manager of the United States Hockey League’s Fargo Force.
“This is another challenge,” Blais said at the press conference, “one that I’m excited about. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be a Maverick, and hopefully we can win a lot of games.”
Alberts, who was hired as the program’s athletic director last month, said he initially ruled out Blais as a candidate. But after interviewing other candidates, Alberts decided to call Blais again and the two came to a “gentleman’s agreement.”
Alberts reportedly talked to five other finalists, including Crookston, Minn., native Mike Hastings, who currently is an assistant coach at Minnesota. The job opened up last month when longtime coach Mike Kemp accepted an associate athletic director job at Omaha.
Blais said he will remain as a part owner of the Fargo Force, a team he led to the Clark Cup Finals during its inaugural season. He also will help in the search for the team’s next coach.
“This has been a tremendous opportunity for me,” Blais said about coaching in Fargo. “At this time, I feel I have accomplished what I set out to do. Starting a hockey franchise, playing at the outstanding Urban Plains Center and watching these young players excel have all been enjoyable for me.”
Blais’ hire also may have Western Collegiate Hockey Association implications.
The league is trying to get Omaha to apply for admission along with Bemidji State so it can expand to 12 teams and possibly save the Beavers, who will be without a conference after the 2009-10 season.
Bemidji State has said in the past that it might have to drop hockey if it doesn’t have conference affiliation. It applied to the WCHA in March, but the league wants a 12th team for scheduling and revenue reasons.
Because of location and its large fan base, Omaha is the logical fit and Blais has strong ties to the WCHA. He played at Minnesota in the 1970s and served as head coach at UND for 10 years.
Omaha currently is a member of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Blais deflected questions Friday about whether the Mavericks would be joining his old league.
“I think that’s the administration’s decision,” he said.
WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod previously said he hopes the league will get a second application by mid-summer.
History of success
Blais is leaving Fargo after just one year with the organization. He built the team for scratch and came within two games of winning the USHL championship. He was named the league’s coach and general manager of the year.
He had similar success at other levels.
Blais led Roseau (Minn.) High School to a state championship in 1990 before taking the head coaching job at UND in 1994. He won five MacNaughton Cups, two Broadmoor Trophies and national titles in 1997 and 2000 in his 10 seasons with the Sioux.
Blais resigned from UND in 2004 to take an associate coaching position with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. The organization later moved Blais to a player development role.
Last week, Blais was named head coach of the U.S World Junior team. Ironically, the last time he was named coach of the World Junior team was 2004 when he also switched jobs. Blais stepped down from coaching the Americans in 2004, handing the job to Minnesota-Duluth’s Scott Sandelin.