Tuesday afternoon, the Minneapolis Public Schools announced that former Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Joe Dziedzic would take over the district's boys varsity hockey program, the Novas.
Dziedzic most recently coached the St. Paul Academy/Mounds Park Academy boys varsity hockey team.
A native of Northeast Minneapolis, Dziedzic is a graduate of Edison High School, where he was named Minnesota Mr. Hockey in his senior year. After attending the University of Minnesota, Dziedzic was snagged by Pittsburgh Penguins scouts for the team's 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 seasons. He spent his last season with the Phoenix Coyotes and the minor league Springfield Falcons, until an eye injury in 2000 ended his professional career. According to statistics published on the Pittsburgh Penguins website, Dziedzic played 130 games in the NHL, scoring 14 goals and 14 assists.
In the decade since, Dziedzic jumped into the youth coaching world, working at, running, and founding hockey camps in Minnesota and coaching in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League, according to his professional website. in 2010, he was named the head coach of St. Paul Academy/Mounds Park Academy boys varsity hockey team where, according to a WCCO report,
(h)is biggest challenge now is changing a mindset. St. Paul Academy is currently 1-4, went 11-14-2 last year and was only 8-18 two years ago.
“I’m finding now that the culture of what kind of players were there, that they needed to be upgraded and be more committed. That’s what we’re in the process of doing right now,” said Dziedzic.
The team finished its 2011-2012 season fourth in its section, with 11 wins and 13 regular-season losses, but making it to the conference playoffs, where it was eliminated in its first game.
In a press release issued with the announcement, the district said Dziedzic was hired expressly to help rebuild the Minneapolis Novas.
“Joe Dziedzic brings great knowledge about the history of Minneapolis hockey, Director of Athletics John Washington said. “Our hope is that he will lead the charge to resurrect hockey in Minneapolis.”
The Novas finished their last season at the top of their conference, with 19 wins and six losses. However, the team draws from every high school in the city, to the ire of local hockey fans. The district announcement did not specifically mention plans to expand the number of teams in the hockey program, but Dziedzic was upbeat about the team's future.
“Our feeder program is growing in numbers,” he said. “We’re hoping to build on that and reenergize the city’s hockey program,” he added. “I am excited about this great opportunity for me to come full circle to where I started playing hockey.”