Matt Smaby named head coach of Waterloo Black Hawks
The former UND captain had been working as the head of Grand Forks Youth Hockey.
It started with the notebooks.
At the tail end of Matt Smaby's playing career, the former UND captain knew he wanted to go into coaching. So, he began writing everything down about coaches he played for and things he saw.
He documented things he liked and things he didn't.
"It started back then and it has continued," said Smaby, who played at UND from 2003-06. "Those notebooks have started to pile up and that's a good thing to be able to go back and check in, remind myself of things I've seen along the way and situations I've come across, and also to be able to lean on people. As a coach, I'm hungry to grow and learn. It's important to have values but you have to be open-minded to new ideas and new ways to do things and always try to grow and learn."
Smaby will now take that knowledge to his first head coaching job.
Smaby, who spent last year as the hockey director of the Grand Forks Youth Hockey Association, has been named the head coach of the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League. Smaby will take over for P.K. O'Handley, who is moving into a role as team president after 19 years as head coach.
"I'm very excited," Smaby said. "I think looking back at the decision I made when I was playing that my passion — what I wanted to do for the rest of my life — was coaching, my goal was to be a head coach one day. I realized the path to get there isn't always linear. Sometimes, it zigs and zags and there are ups and downs to get to where you want to go.
"My goal in going through the whole process was to set myself up to be ready when an opportunity presented itself. I'm excited that this opportunity is there. I feel like the work I've done going back to my playing days has gotten me ready for the jump to a head coaching position."
Smaby, who played four seasons in the NHL for the Tampa Bay Lightning, retired from playing after leading Munich to back-to-back titles in Germany's top league in 2016 and 2017.
He returned to UND to finish his degree and get his start in coaching as a UND student assistant. Smaby quickly impressed the coaching staff so much that they let him join them on the bench during games, which has never been done for a volunteer coach in recent years.
When UND needed to hire an assistant in the summer of 2019, despite just having two years as a volunteer coach under his belt, Smaby was the runner-up to Karl Goehring.
Smaby went back overseas to be an assistant coach with Salzburg in the top Austrian league in 2019-20. Salzburg won the league's regular-season title, but the playoffs were wiped out by the pandemic. Then, Smaby returned to North Dakota to take the Grand Forks Youth Hockey Association job during the pandemic year.
"My goal in being here was to do the best job I could," Smaby said of his time with Grand Forks Youth Hockey. "I knew I wanted to be a coach, so I used all of those experiences to prepare myself for similar situations that I may see somewhere down the line."
Waterloo went 22-30-1 last season, missing the Clark Cup Playoffs. In 2019-20, the Black Hawks were in first place in the Western Conference when the pandemic shut down the season. Waterloo's lone Clark Cup came in 2003-04.
In Waterloo, Smaby will be working with another former UND player in Bryn Chyzyk, who is the team's director of scouting.
"He's a great guy," Smaby said. "I got to know him a little bit coming back to Grand Forks when he was just finishing up playing here. He was around for a couple years after that as well. I've gotten to know him. He's a really good guy, a really smart hockey guy and the UND connections are important. . . there are plenty of those around the hockey world. I'm excited to work with him and the rest of the organization as well."