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Penn State Hockey: Guy Gadowsky And Ken Hitchcock, an Unexpected Relationship

by on January 30, 2013 3:50 PM

Even with his left arm in a sling following rotator cuff surgery, there is no slowing down Penn State men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky. While he may be off the ice, the whistles and shouts are no less intense as the Nittany Lions finished Tuesday’s practice skating the full length of the ice in shifts.

“We’re giving them the day off tomorrow,” Gadowsky said after practice. “So we wanted to make sure we got in a little extra conditioning.”

Coaching philosophies can often be hard to summarize. Asked to do so himself, Gadowsky just smiled and shook his head as he looked for a place to start. His eventual answer, a combination of not over-coaching or over-analyzing his teams served as an interesting insight, but one of his coaching influences, former Philadelphia Flyers and current St. Louis Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock provided a much more interesting back story.

“The NHL lockout in 2004 was when I went to Princeton,” Gadowsky said. “So I had a whole new staff and I didn’t know anybody in the area and I wanted a goaltender coach so I called Ken up and asked if I could borrow his goaltender coach, and he said, ‘You know I’m not doing anything, I’d love to help.’

“I thought he’d be here for a week, and he was there the entire year. He’d go to at least one of our games a week, usually two. If he couldn’t make an away game we’d send him the tapes. If I had any questions he’d come in four hours before practice and just sit there, I’d shut the door and take the phone off the hook and just ask him every little question. It was an amazing learning experience as a young coach. It was phenomenal.”

Hitchcock was fired in Philadelphia during the 2006-07 season and made a four-year stop in Columbus to coach the Blue Jackets before landing in St. Louis. Even through the career moves of both coaches, Hitchcock remained an influence in Gadowsky’s coaching career.

“He’s an extremely committed guy,” Gadowsky said. “So during the season we don’t talk as much, but after the season I always bug him about a few things. This summer actually I sat down with him and Mike Keenan [former NHL head coach] and we discussed coaching strategy for two hours.”

As Gadowsky continues to build the Penn State hockey program much like Hitchcock has rebuilt NHL franchises around the country, his older mentor isn’t shy to shine the light on his rising colleague.

"Guy has become a tremendous student of the game,” Hitchcock said Tuesday. “His best attribute is that he asks for help and asks the tough questions to get to the next level as a coach. That's the part that I like about Guy is that he knows when to ask questions and he knows how to seek the right answers."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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