Weber State University hockey coach Joe Pfleegor received the Utah Amateur Hockey Association Coach of the Year award on Tuesday night. The award was one of several given out during the UAHA’s annual awards dinner.
Pfleegor had a successful season with the Wildcats, leading them to a 26–10–3 record and a berth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division II National Tournament. WSU finished the season ranked in the top 10 in the country.
“This award means a lot,” said Pfleegor in his acceptance speech. “But I can tell you this award is really a reflection of the whole Weber State hockey team. The coaches that I’ve surrounded myself with deserve this as much as myself and the team does.”
Don Korth, a member of the UAHA board and a former assistant coach at WSU, presented the award. Korth, who met Pfleegor during the 1999 season, said he had many fond memories of time spent with Pfleegor and the team.
“(Joe) told me that he learned how to recruit from Robby Larsen and a few of the others that were there,” Korth said. “It’s so important in a program like Weber State. It takes a lot to get these young men to come and play hockey. If somebody had told me 15–20 years ago that there would be people from Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, Michigan and places like that to come to play hockey in Utah, I’d have told them they were crazy. But it’s happening all over the state now because of the college programs.”
Korth went on to talk about the success Pfleegor had in his first year back at WSU.
“He immediately built the program so that it was very competitive, and they went to nationals last year and did very well,” Korth said. “They came close to winning and doing the things that they need to do to make the program better.”
Pfleegor shared some of his coaching philosophies during his speech. He let his teams know that it’s not all about winning, but about competing. To instill this philosophy, he said there are two key elements.
“One is the work ethic,” he said. “I don’t care what kind of skill level you have; if you don’t work hard, it means nothing. No. 2 is to have fun. When those boys have fun, I guarantee you that they will go through a brick wall for you as a coach, but more importantly, they will play hard for their teammates and accomplish feats that they never knew they could.”
Korth praised Pfleegor on his approach to the game and with his players.
“Coach Joe approaches the game in segments that each player can understand and offers encouragement continually, both from the bench and his boys’ progress in practice,” he said. “His truly amazing success this year is the strongest testament to his coaching approach, his engagement with players and understanding their game.”
Pfleegor, an unpaid volunteer coach, shared the highlight of the 2012–13 season. It was his personal goal to get team captain Braxton Green to the national tournament.
“Here’s an individual that was with Weber State for four years, and in his life, he’s never been to a national tournament,” he said. “That was our goal as a team. I can tell you that the day that we beat the University of Utah and we went in that locker room, just that one facial expression that Braxton made made it all worthwhile for me as a coach.”
UAHA is looking to build upon the success it has had this last year and to continue to expand in the state.
“We had a great year last year,” said Fred Wilner, UAHA president. “USA hockey’s numbers were down last year. We attribute it mostly to the NHL lockout. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the numbers in Utah were up. It’s pretty exciting that we’re increasing our numbers. Next year is going to be better.”
The WSU hockey team will hit the ice again on Sept. 13 with its home opener against Utah State University.