Blizzard hockey: DelCastillo accepts head job at Hamline
By Eric Morken
Former Alexandria Blizzard head coach Doc DelCastillo was reminded again this month that life can change in a hurry as a hockey coach.
DelCastillo, his wife Sue and their six children were prepared to make the move to Brookings as the head coach of the Tier II Blizzard team. The boxes were packed and ready to go to South Dakota. Now they'll have a different destination after DelCastillo accepted the job to become the next coach for the Hamline University men's hockey program on Tuesday.
"There's always a process at the university level," he said of how rapidly things came together. "But it was pretty quick. Our family was packing boxes to move to Brookings, and the same boxes are going to be moving to the Twin Cities."
It's a bit of a homecoming for DelCastillo. He grew up four blocks away from the Hamline campus. His mother worked there and his sister, Melissa, went to school there and swam for the Pipers
Accepting the job put an end to a whirlwind month for DelCastillo that finished with him back in college coaching for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. He spent that year as the head coach of Alaska-Fairbanks. He has also served as a top assistant at St. Cloud State and Nebraska-Omaha in his 20-year coaching career.
DelCastillo earned an opportunity to get back into college coaching with three strong seasons in Alexandria. The Blizzard is coming off a franchise-record 40 wins through the regular season this past winter. DelCastillo finished his Alexandria career with a 103-56-17 record and three straight trips to the Central Division playoffs.
"He knows how to recruit and he knows how to teach players," Hamline Athletic Director Jason Verdugo said in a statement announcing his hire. "We're very excited to have him here."
DelCastillo said he used the last three years in Alexandria to become a better head coach. The North American Hockey League (NAHL) is a developmental league for the players, and it's the same way for the guys leading those programs.
"I'm no different than the players," he said. "I really tried to improve on my skills as far as coaching and dealing with the players in my three years in Alexandria...I'm appreciative to the players. I always preach to our players that if the team is successful then individuals are successful. I'm just a reflection of the sweat that the players have put in during the three years I was here."
He said it was a community that was hard to leave for him and his family. Five of his six daughters are active in hockey, which means tournaments almost every weekend. DelCastillo wasn't able to attend a lot of those because of the Blizzard's schedule.
"Never once did our girls miss a tourney," he said. "There's always people opening up their arms and cars saying, 'They can come with us.' We're really appreciative of that. The community of Alexandria made it really easy on us to live there and function there."
Blizzard owners Chris and Mitri Canavati seemed to understand the position DelCastillo was in.
"Just as the organization's goal is to move young men onto the next step of their hockey career, the same goal applies for our coaches and staff," Chris said in an article released on the Blizzard website on Tuesday. "We are excited for Doc and his family, and we wish him nothing but the best."
The Canavatis also named DelCastillo's former assistant coach, Jeff Crouse, as the new head coach for the NA3HL team that will be in Alexandria next season. They are currently in the process of finding a new head coach to take over the team in Brookings.