Huskies hockey, Vail Junior Hockey tab Kersey
He’s been the sole assistant hockey coach at Division I Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. While most programs usually have at least two assistants, going solo meant that Kersey is always at practice, team meetings and games, while still flying all over North America to recruit.
By the way, did we mention that he was also a full-time student, in the process of obtaining his master’s degree in education?
So it should come as no surprise that Kersey will continue to display his juggling skills as the newly appointed head coach of Battle Mountain hockey as well as the director of the Vail Junior Hockey Association.
“The most important thing is that you have got to love what you’re doing,” said Kersey by phone from Connecticut. “There’s nothing I would rather do than be at the rink every day. There wasn’t a day that went by where I felt like I was working (at Sacred Heart). It always felt like play because I was doing what I loved to do. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Kersey’s hiring ends a long search for both Battle Mountain and the VJHA to fill their respective positions. At Battle Mountain, Kersey replaces Ken Bielski, who led the Huskies to a second-place finish in the state before resigning in March. With the VJHA, he succeeds Mike McNeill.
“I feel it’s extremely important that each program complement the other and that there be a real tie with regards to goals and objectives,” VJHA president Glenn Davis said. “Ultimately, what the coach of the high school team wants, everybody in the club should be working toward.”
“One thing I liked, he’s working on his master’s degree in education and he has a real positive approach to his coaching techniques,” Huskies athletic director Fred Koetteritz said. “In the interview, it was the techniques, I think, that will benefit the style of hockey with the size of kids that we have on our team – continuing with Ken’s approach of speed, agility and quickness to the game.”
Kersey has a myriad of experiences upon which to draw from his own career. Born in Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia, he grew up admiring NHLers from opposite ends of the hockey spectrum – Bobby Clarke and Wayne Gretzky.
He played minor hockey in Cranberg B.C., before hooking up with Estaban in Saskatchewan. There, from 1993-95, he had two outstanding seasons where he led the league in scoring twice and was a two-time playoff MVP.
That enabled him to go to Brown University, where he played in the ECAC. After graduating in 1999, Kersey spent a year in the then-Western Pro League (now the Central Hockey League) with the Amarillo Rattlers and the San Angelo Outlaws in Texas.
“I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to play in the NHL and I had gone as far as I was going to go playing,” Kersey said. “I kind of felt that I didn’t want to be a paycheck player. I always played for the right reasons.
“So I knew I was taking away an opportunity for someone who really needed the opportunity and I had gone as far as I was going to go. I knew I wanted to get into coaching so I left that position and I ended up taking a coaching position at Sacred Heart University.”
Working with head coach Shaun Hannah turned out to be a boon for Kersey. The Pioneers were a new program in Division I hockey and they were clearly on the rise in the fledgling Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference. In 2000-01, Sacred Heart became the first MAAC team to beat an ECAC school when the Pioneers topped Cornell, which was ranked 10th in the nation at the time. Last year, Sacred Heart hit the road and tied the Maine Black Bears, who ended up losing in overtime of the national championship game in March to Minnesota.
But Kersey had other aspirations other than the big time.
“I’ve always wanted to coach amateur athletes as opposed to professional athletes,” he said. “When you’re coaching professional athletes, you’re about people management. You’re managing them rather than developing them.
“With amateur athletes, they’re athletes who are in it for the right reason. I’m a huge advocate of skill development and facilitating the growth of the sport of hockey.”
And that makes coaching in Colorado a perfect fit. As the director of the VJHA, Kersey will work with coaches and players of all levels in the organization as well as tending to its administrative duties. If there is a Midget-level team, it is likely he will coach the squad. According to Davis, the club has not yet made a decision on fielding a Midget team.
Come the high school season, Kersey inherits a talented squad of Huskies, who figure to compete for the state title again in 2002-03.
“My expectations are always going to be high,” Kersey said. “But my expectations are for the players to come and do well in the classroom and compete day in, day out. Win or lose, if they work hard in the classroom and they work hard on the ice and become better people in the process, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”
One of the biggest challenges Kersey will face will be of a political nature. Politics seems to come with the job when it comes to Vail Valley hockey. With his appointments, Kersey becomes the third director of the VJHA in as many years and the fifth coach of the Midget A-AA/high school team in the past five years.
Kersey understands the situation and says he plans to work with Davis and the VJHA board as well as Koetteritz and Battle Mountain to try to resolve the inevitable situations that arise throughout a season.
“My decisions are going to be influenced by what’s going to be best for the program,” Kersey said. “The thing is that I think there’s always going to be issues. As long as you’re open and honest and you want to communicate, people will buy in to what you’re trying to accomplish. As long as the players are happy and the players are working hard and being challenged, I think it will end up being a positive experience.”