CANTON — The summer is moving by quickly for new St. Lawrence University men’s hockey coach Brent Brekke.
Brekke, who is 47, was hired as the Saints coach on May 25 and has set up a temporary headquarters in SLU’s main athletic complex while upgrades continue at Appleton Arena.
The Minot, N.D. native is starting his first job as a head coach, after being an assistant coach at various levels since the 1997-98 season, with a smaller office than he had last season when he was an assistant coach for Casey Jones at Clarkson.
“There (have been) plenty of small offices over the years,” Brekke said of his temporary home. “It’s been a great transition. It will be nice to get into Appleton once it’s completed. It’s exciting. There is a ton of momentum here, the support has been tremendous. We seem to be coming into a facility that keeps the tradition and history of what Appleton is, but adding the new bells and whistles. It’s something pretty special. It’s something that is great to step into.”
Brekke got a late start on his offseason, coming aboard after SLU’s second semester had already ended. He has held on to the recruits who were planning to come to SLU before former coach Mark Morris was let go, and is still adding new ones to the list, which he said he doesn’t expect to be finished until about the first day of fall classes at the end of the month.
He left a Clarkson program that won the ECAC Hockey tournament title last spring and is taking over a last-place SLU squad that went 3-17-2 in conference play and was 6-29-2 overall. The Saints were outscored 149-75 last year and allowed 39.2 shots-per game.
“There really is no offseason, there is a lot to be done in a short amount of time,” Brekke said. “I’m trying to get the details in place. Guys are arriving in three weeks and classes start the 28th, so every day is something new that is exciting and you have to take care of. We can’t wait for the start of the season.”
Brekke played college hockey for Western Michigan, graduating in 1994, then had a two-year pro career highlighted by 30 games in the American Hockey League with the Cornwall Aces.
He started his coaching career as an assistant coach and director of player personnel with the North American Hockey League’s Chicago Freeze, then spent time at Cornell from 1999-2007. He moved to Miami (Ohio) from 2009-18 before taking the job at Clarkson last year.
“There’s always going to be phone calls about things you have to take care of (as a head coach) or have some input,” Brekke said. “There’s a lot more details to it. There’s an administrative side, as an assistant there’s not as much administration as you have as a head coach. That’s probably the biggest change.”
Brekke’s SLU squad will play at least six games this season against two of his former bosses. The Saints play Cornell coach Mike Schafer’s squad twice in ECAC Hockey play and face Jones and Clarkson four times, including two nonconference contests.
“It’s exciting,” Brekke said. “Those are probably automatic rivalries just because you have good friendship. There is a competitive side to every coach when you are head-to-head.”
Brekke’s enthusiasm is now focused on seeing SLU grow back into one of the top programs in ECAC Hockey and he is realistic about the process to achieving that goal.
“You need to build a foundation,” Brekke said. “You aren’t just going to jump in and be at the top of the mountain. It doesn’t matter if you are coming off a successful year, or whatever it may be. You are always starting from a foundational phase. We will build the things that are important to the culture and what we want to instill in our program. We want to build a good culture, and that’s being the best person you can be every single day, coaching ever facet of your life, the academics, the hockey, the social live. Strive to be better every single day. That’s something we are going to preach to our guys is to strive for greatness.”