Image Courtesy of the Rochester Americans If Michigan Tech Huskies’ fans needed a reason to tune into Buffalo Sabres’ games, they received a big reason this week in the form of an announcement by Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier that long-time head coach Lindy Ruff was being let go and that former Huskies’ player Ron Rolston would replace him through the remainder of this season.
Rolston becomes the first former Huskies’ player to be a head coach in the National Hockey League since Davis Payne was fired last season by the St. Louis Blues.
Rolston had been the head coach of the Sabres’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He had guided the Americans to a 27-18-3 record this season, good for seventh in the Western Conference. Rolston led the Americans to the first round of the AHL playoffs last season with a 36-26-14 record.
Prior to taking over in Rochester, Rolston spent seven seasons as a coach of the U.S. National Team Development Program, working with the Under-17 and Under-18 teams. While there, he helped mold players like current Huskies’ forward Blake Pietila as well as several current NHLers, from Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel to Columbus’ Jack Johnson and Colorado’s Erik Johnson.
After leaving Michigan Tech following the 1988-89 season, Rolston spent one season playing the East Coast Hockey League with the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds. Realizing that perhaps his playing days were numbered, Rolston hung up his skates after that season and jumped into coaching.
From 1990-94, Rolston was an assistant at Lake Superior State. The Lakers made the NCAA tournament all four years, twice winning the Frozen Four title in 1992 and 1994. He left the Lakers to join the coaching staff at Clarkson for the next three seasons. The Golden Knights also made the NCAA Tournament every season he was there.
Rolston joined the Harvard Crimson coaching staff in 1999, and two seasons later the Crimson earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
In his last assistant coaching gig before joining the USNTDP, Rolston spent 2002-04 with Boston College. During his tenure, the Eagles made the NCAA Tournament both years, finishing third in 2004.
Rolston becomes the sixth former Husky to join the NHL coaching and front office ranks. He joins Payne, now assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings, as the only coaches. Glenn Merkosky, Brian Hunter, and Chris Cihocki are scouts for the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, and Edmonton Oilers, respectively. Jimmy Roy serves as Director of Player Development for the Winnipeg Jets.
Four former Huskies serve as head or assistant coaches with various college and junior teams. A.J. Aitken and Graham Wise are the head coach of Marian University and Ryerson University, respectively. Jamie Russell (Providence College) and Cam Ellsworth (University of Massachusetts-Lowell) are both assistants.
Two others are still in the coaching ranks at developmental levels. Rolf Ulvin is the head coach at Hopkins High School in Minnesota. Pat Mikesch is an assistant with the Green Bay Gamblers.
Three former Huskies hold management positions. Former defenseman Scott White is the General Manager of the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars. John Gridale and Steve Hagwell both serve as commissioners. Grisdale is in charge of the British Columbia Hockey League while Hagwell is running the East Coast Athletic Conference.