Derek Plante made his mark at Minnesota Duluth as a Hall of Fame athlete and would like to return to his alma mater as a coach with the men’s hockey program.
An assistant’s job opened a week ago when Steve Rohlik, after 10 years as the top aide to Scott Sandelin, accepted a position as Ohio State’s associate head coach.
Plante, 39, a Cloquet native, has been out of professional hockey for two years and lives in Hermantown with his wife, Kristi (Duncan) Plante, a former UMD star softball player, and their three sons, Zam, 5, Max, 4, and Victor, 2.
“The UMD job is intriguing to me for a number of reasons – it’s a high-profile program that is doing well with high-profile players, they’re moving into a brand new rink, and I’m an interested alumnus,” Plante said Friday. “This is an exciting time for Bulldog hockey.”
The hiring time frame includes a job posting of two weeks and the interviewing of three finalists by a selection committee, said UMD assistant coach Brett Larson. As of Friday, the coaching opening had yet to be posted on the university’s website. Sandelin said he hoped to have an assistant hired by early June.
Plante is UMD’s second all-time scorer with 96 goals and 123 assists for 219 points in 138 games as a center from 1989-93. He was named to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, the same year he completed an undergraduate degree in community health and health education at UMD.
He played 14 professional seasons, including seven in the NHL with Buffalo, Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia, and was a member of the 1999 Dallas team that won the Stanley Cup. He finished with 96 goals and 248 assists for 248 points in 450 NHL games. He played most recently with Langenthal in Switzerland in 2007-08.
Coaching is in Plante’s family background. His dad, Bruce Plante, 61, has coached on the youth and high school level the past 36 years, and has 360 wins at Hermantown High School the last 21 years.
“Derek has always had a high hockey IQ. He listens, and watches and learns. He’s very sharp,” said Bruce Plante. “He worked with out (Hermantown) players the last two seasons and they responded very well to him.”
Derek Plante said he spent much of last winter talking to folks in college and professional hockey to let them know he’s interested in returning to the game in a coaching or scouting capacity. He’s coached in summer camps in the Duluth area and in 2009-10 scouted for Des Moines (Iowa) in the U.S. Hockey League, coached by friend Mike Guentzel.
“I don’t have a lot of coaching experience, but I have a lot of hockey experience,” said Plante. “I’ve always thought I’d be good at helping players develop.”
Larson said UMD has received about 35 inquiries about the assistant’s job in the last week.