Alaska Anchorage hockey
For hockey lovers in the United States, the University of Alaska Anchorage hockey program has always been an important part of the sport, consistently producing top talent and competitive teams. However, the impact of the program goes beyond just the players and the games played on the ice; the leadership of the coaches has played a vital role in the development and success of the team.
Since its inception in 1979, the Seawolves have had six head coaches, each leaving their own unique mark on the program. However, one name stands out among the rest – Dave Shyiak. With 19 years as a member of UAA’s coaching staff and 8 seasons as the head coach, Shyiak’s legacy has left a lasting impact on the program, shaping it into what it is today.
Shyiak’s Journey to UAA
Before joining the UAA coaching staff, Shyiak had a noteworthy hockey career himself. As a player, he spent four seasons at Northern Michigan University, helping them win the NCAA championship in 1991. After playing professionally for a few years, Shyiak moved on to coaching, starting at his alma mater before making his way to the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Taking on the role of assistant coach in 1997, Shyiak quickly proved his worth, helping the team reach the WCHA Final Five in his first year. This was the beginning of a successful era for the Seawolves, with Shyiak being promoted to associate head coach in 2000 and eventually becoming the head coach in 2005.
Shyiak’s Leadership Style
One of the most significant factors that have made Shyiak’s tenure at UAA so impactful is his leadership style. Known for his dedication and passion for the game, Shyiak has always pushed his players to reach their full potential, both on and off the ice.
He is also known for his attention to detail and strong work ethic, qualities that have become part of the team’s D. These characteristics have translated into the team’s performance on the ice, often making the Seawolves a tough opponent for their rivals.
Building the UAA Program
When Shyiak took over as head coach, the team was coming off of a 16-win season, and he faced the challenge of rebuilding the program. He quickly got to work, using his experience and knowledge to recruit and develop players who would fit into his system, ultimately leading the Seawolves to their most successful seasons in the WCHA conference.
Under his leadership, the Seawolves produced eight all-WCHA selections, two WCHA scoring champions, and the program’s only Hobey Baker finalist in Eric Walsky. He also helped UAA secure its first Alaska-born player at the NHL level, Matt Shasby, who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Shyiak also focused on building a strong team culture, emphasizing the importance of academic excellence and community involvement. This has resulted in the program consistently achieving one of the highest academic progress rates in the NCAA.
Leaving a Lasting Legacy
In 2013, Shyiak announced his departure from UAA, leaving behind a 98-174-40 overall record and significant contributions to the program. However, his impact on the team and the sport of hockey in Alaska is still felt today.
In his honor, UAA established the Dave Shyiak Legacy Fund, supporting the team’s continued success and development. Shyiak’s legacy also continues through his former players, many of whom have gone on to play professionally and now serve as coaches, passing on the lessons and values they learned under his leadership.
Reflecting on Shyiak’s impact on UAA, Derek Donald, the current head coach of the Seawolves, stated, The job Dave did, coming from such humble beginnings, to help turn this program around is unbelievable. We feel his presence every single day.