Staff Spotlight: Steve Thompson
by Jamie Gonzales |
Director of Hockey Operations Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska Fun Fact: Learning to play piano in his spare time
Steve is a fresh, new face for Seawolf Hockey this year as director of hockey operations. (The moustache he's sporting is all Movember, he'd like you to know, a whole team nod to men's health.) He's the guy who, among other things, records all the games, helps new players settle in, manages the team's travel and builds the kind of vibrant culture among Seawolves that makes it fun to be a student-athlete. And shhhhhhhhh...we stole him from our Northern rivals, where he spent his college career as a Nanook goalie and psychology student, graduating with his bachelor's degree last May.
Gold with green or blue?
He knew the Governor's Cup could test his loyalty this year when he was dressed in green and gold and watching former blue-and-gold-clad teammates skate onto the ice in Sullivan Arena, but he's made the switch when it really counts.
"At the Kendall, every time Fairbanks would score-they didn't play us, obviously-I was still cheering, I was so excited," Steve says. "I want Fairbanks to win every game they can, except for when they play us."
He's able to see the Governor's Cup as friendly competition. "In my head I see it as playing against your sibling in sports. You still love them to death no matter what, but the last thing you want is to have your little brother beat you. You want to absolutely pulverize them, but afterward you still love them and want to hang out."
A win for the Seawolves this year would mark the fifth year in a row he's been part of the winning team. He'd really like to pack those bragging rights with him on his next visit to Fairbanks.
As one of the youngest members of the coaching staff and hot off Div. I college ice, Steve knows he's in a unique position to act as a bridge between players and coaching staff, bringing energy, a positive attitude and fun to the lineup.
"I can be a confidante for players, they trust me," he says.
Also on his list of important responsibilities, though maybe not right at the top, is a weekly visit to the thrift store to pick out an outfit. The more outrageous the better. See, each Thursday after practice the team holds a shootout and the loser has to wear the styled-by-Steve outfit to class the following Monday.
Florida, France or Alaska?
As graduation from UAF was looming, Steve was thinking about his future. He loved the idea of extending his hockey career so he decided to spend the summer training and make a move to France where he could play on a low-level pro team and teach English on the side. As of August, that's where he was headed, but he decided to explore a few stateside options, too.
He put in a phone call to a goalie coach who knew the Florida scene to suss out playing opportunities in the Sunshine State. As fortune would have it, his contact floated the idea of coaching to him. He pointed Steve right back to his hometown of Anchorage and put him in touch with Josh Ciocco who had just been hired as a new assistant coach.
Talking with Josh and Matt Thomas, UAA's head coach, convinced him to seize the opportunity to launch a coaching career while he was still young.
"I flew down here and I don't regret it at all," Steve says with a big grin. "I moved back in at home and get home cooked meals for the first time in a long time."
Since he left home and West High at 16 to play hockey down south, he's relishing the opportunity to reconnect with his friends and family, including one younger brother who is still in Anchorage (the other is off playing hockey in New York).
"We'll go skate outside at the rink across from our house, stuff we did when we were 14, 15 and now we're doing it again at 25."
Steve is looking forward to moving into a head coaching position one day and says Coach Thomas is helping him chart a course.
"Matt lets me do the starting lineup speech and brings me into meetings with the athletic directors and people in the community and has been a really good mentor, teaching me how to be a head coach," says Steve. "It's a huge transition from player to coach."
Where he used to be focused on his own role and had one-track "stop the puck" mentality, now he's opening himself up to mentor UAA's goalies and learning to see the big, integrated picture.
This past weekend's Governor's Cup results saw both the Seawolves and the Nanooks chalk up wins. It's safe to say there will be some sibling rivalry when paths cross in the next couple months. Ever the goalie, Steve is ready to deny his former teammates' best verbal attacks and let the boys settle scores on Fairbanks ice in February with the last two games of the series. He's just really, really hoping to come away with a green and gold victory.