Ed Gantt is the new BYU hockey head coach, but he’s not new at all to the program.
He spent 10 years building the program from 1998 to 2008, and he’s back again to reorganize the coaching staff, raise player expectations and put BYU back on the contender list.
In 1998, Gantt started as a faculty adviser to the hockey team, and over the next decade he moved up to become the assistant head coach and finally head coach. He saw his fair share of success during this decade, and thousands of BYU hockey fans regularly came out to support their team.
“We had three straight years in the top 10 of the Western Region of the ACHA (the league we play in),” Gantt said. “We narrowly missed going to the national tournament with two consecutive overtime losses two years in a row.”
In 2008, Gantt decided to leave his coaching position at BYU hockey for an opportunity to coach his son’s 16-and-under AA youth team, associated with the Salt Lake Grizzlies. As for BYU hockey, wins and supporters grew scarce.
“The team has struggled over the last several years,” he said. “I think some poor decisions were made and things just got steadily worse. The atmosphere in the locker room (got) down to the level of … a bunch of kids playing hockey and having some fun.”
The Board of Trustees, charged with program decisions like coaching staff, decided it was time for a change, and Gantt was brought back as head coach.
He decided to start by restructuring the coaching staff with the additions of a goal tending coach, an athletic trainer, team doctors, a strength and conditioning coach and two associate coaches who made their own careers as NHL players. With this new structure in place, it was time to hit the ice.
Practices and conditioning began over the summer with double the previously allotted time on the ice and double the time spent in off-ice conditioning. The players were happy to see how seriously Gantt was taking the program.
“The team has struggled for the past couple of years, and I knew that with (Gantt), things would be definitely turning around,” said Blake Dorton, a forward from St. Louis, Missouri.
Dorton played for the team in his freshman year before leaving for an LDS mission. He returned and decided not to rejoin the team but to pursue his studies in broadcast journalism. His hiatus lasted two years before the ice called him back. He decided to return to the team. He feels lucky to play for Gantt and sees success coming.
“Coach has done a good job to bring a winning mindset to the team,” Dorton said. “We probably don’t have the most talented team in the state, but you don’t always have to be the most talented team to win and be successful. The biggest thing is working as a team, working hard and being committed to a plan.”
Gantt’s plan is to raise player expectations, work harder than any other team in the league and exercise patience. While efforts can change overnight, results may take time.
“The guys know that this is a transition phase,” Gantt said. “But now they’re playing for something — the future of this organization.”
Gantt is confident his plan will not only secure the success of future seasons but that BYU will be viewed as league contenders this very season.
“We’re not playing around anymore,” Gantt said. “We’re going to go out and win some games and get back some respect that the organization lost over the past few years.”
For game schedules and player rosters, go to byuhockey.org.