By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
Just a few hours after Mike Hastings was formally introduced as Minnesota State’s new men’s hockey coach, he left town, not to return for more than two weeks.
He came back to town a couple of days ago, but make no mistake, he was working.
Scouting United States Hockey League games. Meeting a prized recruit and his family in the Czech Republic. Attending the annual conference meetings and coaching convention in Florida.
“I took the job on Saturday (April 14), and I was on a plane (to Europe) on Tuesday. That was good,” Hastings said in an interview in his bare-walled office at All Seasons Arena on Friday morning.
The decorations can wait.
More important for Hastings is making sure his transition from Nebraska Omaha to Minnesota State and the Mavericks’ transition from Troy Jutting to his regime goes as smoothly as possible.
“The program has to come first,” Hastings said.
That meant getting in touch with incoming recruits, including Shattuck-St. Mary’s School standout Teddy Blueger, who was playing for Latvia in the Under-18 World Championships in the Czech Republic last month.
Hastings called Blueger “an important piece,” for the Mavericks.
“My first concern was making sure the guys that have been signed (to national letters of intent) are still solid,” he said. “We wanted to make sure those players know we’re committed.”
This week, he was doing the same with the team’s current players. He spent most of Thursday in individual meetings with players, going over statistics, fitness reports and grades, among other items, as he got to know them.
“It was great to see their eagerness; they want to get better,” Hastings said. “It was also good to hear their insights, positive and negative. A lot of them wanted to know where they fit. I had to be honest and tell them I’m not sure. Our relationship is based on this day forward.
“But I feel comfortable. There will be some strong leaders in this group. I feel better today than I did two days ago.”
Another decision Hastings has on his plate is his coaching staff. Hastings said he has not finalized it but has been impressed with what associate head coach Darren Blue and assistant Todd Knott have been doing, especially with recruits during the two weeks between Jutting’s reassignment and Hastings’ hiring.
Blue has a season remaining on his contract with MSU, while Knott’s contract runs out June 30.
“Darren and Todd have done a really good job,” Hastings said. “They’ve maintained the communication and the relationships they’ve built with those young men in the interim. They did a great job bridging that timeframe.”