Some would call it a dream job. Trent Klatt was itching to get away.
Until July 1, Klatt will continue as head amateur scout for the NHL’s New York Islanders, whose recent success could have fostered advancement opportunities for a hockey-operations guy like Klatt. Instead, the former Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Minnesota Gopher and longtime NHLer will shift his focus at the end of June to leading the Grand Rapids High School boys team.
Klatt was announced as the program’s new coach Thursday. He replaces John Rothstein, who stepped down in April after two seasons.
Klatt retired as a player in 2004 after spending parts of 15 NHL seasons with four organizations, an 856-game career that spawned 159 goals and 209 assists. He stepped away from the league for “four or five” years before getting into scouting. For the father of five, though, the incessant travel ground him down, and he told Islanders general manager Garth Snow last fall that the 2014-15 campaign would be his last in a full-time role. Klatt still will do some scouting for the Islanders, but on a limited basis.
“Just because I travel too much,” the 44-year-old said Thursday. “I’m away from home, I’m away from my kids, my family. To this extent, I can’t do that anymore.”
Fortuitously, the Grand Rapids gig was available.
“Sometimes, timing is everything,” Grand Rapids athletic director Anne Campbell said.
Klatt’s wife, Kelly, coaches the Thunderhawks softball team.
The 1989 Mr. Hockey winner and Osseo alum has coached in Grand Rapids’ youth program as well as two stints as a volunteer assistant for the high school team. He knows what he’s getting into with the tradition-rich Thunderhawks, a source of immense community pride.
And he inherits a dazzling roster - if everyone returns. North Dakota commit Mitchell Mattson headlines a vaunted collection of forwards that also includes Alex Adams and Jonah Bischoff.
How will the ex-Gopher deal with coaching a future North Dakota player?
“I’ve talked to him quite a bit about that already,” Klatt said, laughing. “It’s OK.”
All that talent breeds expectations, he said. And while the new coach can’t predict wins and losses, he says fans never will be shortchanged by the Thunderhawks’ work ethic.
“They’re going to get an effort every night. I’m not saying we’re going to win all of our games, but we will certainly compete and they will leave the arena at night knowing we gave it everything we had,” Klatt said. “That’s one thing that I learned over the course of my professional career - you have to pick that work bucket up and bring your lunch pail and we’re going to go to work.”
Campbell and the search committee she put together interviewed four candidates. The chance to plug in a coach with Klatt’s credentials doesn’t present itself very often.
He’s succeeded at every level of the sport.
“Trent brings so many different things to the table, and we just couldn’t pass up that opportunity,” Campbell said. “He just knows so much about hockey. He’s been in every arena across the country.”
Klatt is ready to get started.
“To be honest, I’ve been blessed with a God-given talent,” he said. “Having played hockey all my life, it’s one thing that I do know. I enjoy coaching kids, I enjoy being around them and I look at it as a way for me to give back to the community.”
He becomes the second former NHL player to coach in Section 7AA, joining Elk River’s Gordie Roberts.