The Yellowstone Quake have a new coach.
The board announced last week that C.J. Sweigart will be the hockey team’s new coach and general manager.
Sweigart comes to the Quake most recently from the Texas Brahmas, where he was an assistant coach. The Brahmas went 34-5-1 last year and won a South Division regular season and playoff championship as well as a berth to the Fraser Cup. Sweigart also took the Brahmas U16 team to a second-place finish in their league.
Coming to the Quake, Sweigart said, presents an opportunity to return to the Rocky Mountain region he loves and to build his own destiny.
“Rather than riding on someone’s coattails,” he said.
Prior to coaching in Texas, Sweigart coached with the Boulder Hockey Club youth program in Colorado and USA Hockey Western Regional High Performance Development Camp where he earned his USAH level 5 coaching certificate.
“After meeting the Quake Board of Directors, I could see that this a program determined to offer a quality product of junior hockey for players and fans alike,” Sweigart said. “I look forward to the opportunity of building a culture and constructing a team that will play a structured game without losing an eye on the ultimate goal of player development.”
Sweigart said he will aim to build a specific culture within the program by developing a connection with his players.
“I’m not just a coach. Having solo conversations about personal stuff with today’s player is important,” he said. “How am I supposed to coach you if I don’t know what’s going on off the ice?
“It starts with the relationship, otherwise it’s a fake culture.”
He said he wants players who will buy into his detail-oriented approach to the game. Sweigart has already sent out a workout plan to each member of last year’s team and new recruits, tailored for each day of the summer.
“I’m bringing structure, on and off the ice,” he said. “Hockey is a detailed game. When you have guys buy into that, the culture starts to build organically.”
Sweigart said about half of this year’s Quake team will likely be invited back. He said his biggest priority is finding “high character” players, ready to jump into his program “with both feet.”
“Some guys just want to have fun – it might not be the best fit,” he said.
He already has hit the recruiting trail, signing forward Cameron Deforest and goalie Ethan Blackburn.
“We’re hoping to build from the net out,” Sweigart said. “We’re excited to have him on board.”
He said there may be some growing pains at first, but in the long run it will pay dividends for the organization.
“It will be a completely new system for a lot of guys,” he said. “We’re looking for guys that draw from within a line. That requires a ton of skill.”
The announcement of Sweigart’s hiring was made last Wednesday afternoon, but he said he had accepted the job at the end of March.
Sweigart will be joined by assistant coach Daniel Zawacki, a North America Hockey League alumnus of the Bismarck Bobcats, who amassed 102 points in 110 games played.
“Dan has a great eye for talent and has been a phenomenal youth coach for quite some time,” Sweigart said. “We are very excited to get him back into junior hockey and are lucky to have him aboard.”
Sweigart replaces former head coach Phil Oberlin. Oberlin did not have his contract renewed after coaching the last three seasons.
The Quake will host a joint tryout camp with the Oklahoma City Blazers in July and then will start training camp by the end of summer.