Back in 2015, when Derek Plante stepped down as men's hockey assistant coach at Minnesota Duluth, the Cloquet native said it was because he’d seen his recruits play more than his children during his five seasons on the bench.
But that’s not all he mentioned.
“I love this program,” Plante said at the time. “I’ll always love this program. I like being a part of this program. Who knows down the road, maybe I’ll come back to this program?”
Sure enough, five years later, Plante is rejoining Scott Sandelin's staff at UMD to take over as associate head coach from the departing Jason Herter.
The Bulldogs won their first national championship in 2011 when Plante was in the first of his five seasons as an assistant coach from 2010-15. UMD went 124-88-25 (.576) during Plante’s coaching tenure, reaching the NCAA tournament three times (2010-11, 2011-12, 2014-15).
“His passion to be a Bulldog has never wavered; he’s been a Bulldog his whole life,” Sandelin said. “He was great when he was here. You obviously know how full of energy he is and his passion for this program and what he brings for the hockey side of it, knowledge-wise. I love that energy.
“Hopefully you get a little smarter and you get a little wiser and you pick up some things as you get older, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
Herter stepped down from the Bulldogs' staff in late April after nine seasons, citing the time-consuming nature of the profession, like Plante once did. Herter helped take UMD to three straight NCAA championship games between 2017 and 2019, winning back-to-back national championships in 2018 and 2019.
Plante spent the last five years working in the Chicago Blackhawks' organization as a player development coach. He and his wife, Kristi, and their three sons — Zam, 15; Max, 14; and Victor, 12 — still live in Hermantown.
Sandelin said he’s “very fortunate” to get Plante back with the program.
“When Coach Sandelin offered me the chance to come back and be a part of the program again, I was honored and jumped at the opportunity,” Plante, 49, said in a release put out by the university Monday morning. “My family is a little older and in a different stage than last time I was coaching here and they are all fired up for me to be working with Bulldog men's hockey again.”
A former captain at UMD, Plante played four years for the Bulldogs from 1989-93 and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 1992-93. He joined Sandelin’s staff as a rookie coach in 2010 after wrapping up a lengthy professional playing career that included eight seasons in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres, Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers. Plante won the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999.
“The challenge of recruiting to find the right mix of talented, high character, quality young players to join our program is very exciting to me, and the adrenaline of getting back behind the bench and on the ice will be a blast,” Plante said. “The fact that Dr. Suz Hoppe, Christian Koelling, volunteer coach Brant Nicklin, Chris Garner, and of course, Bulldog legend Dale “Hoagie” Haagenson are all still on staff as well as getting the chance to work with a former Bulldog captain Adam Krause and strength expert Jason Aldrich couldn't be more exciting.”
Krause, a Hermantown native and former UMD captain, played four years for Plante from 2011-15. He retired from pro hockey and joined the UMD staff in 2018 after Brett Larson became head coach at St. Cloud State.
Krause said he’s excited to now work with someone he, his dad and brother once stood three hours in line for to meet at Cloquet's ice arena (along with Jamie Langenbrunner) after the Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup.
“He's one of the better coaches I had just from a hockey standpoint and a relationship standpoint,” Krause said. “Unbelievable person, unbelievable hockey mind — he kind of did everything you could possibly do in the game of hockey. He played almost 500 NHL games, Stanley Cup and worked in the NHL. He's really covered a lot of those bases and is a very well respected guy in the hockey community. I just couldn't be more excited.”
This story was updated at 11:08 a.m. on July 13, 2020 with additional information after interviews with Sandelin and Krause. According to Sandelin, Plante will receive the title of associate head coach, not assistant. It was originally posted at 10:30 a.m. on July 13, 2020.