Lake Superior State Lakers
The Lake Superior State Lakers have a rich history in college hockey, and much of their success can be attributed to the leadership of their coaches. From the early days of the program to the present, the coaches of the Lakers have left a lasting legacy on the team and the larger hockey community.
The Lakers hockey program began in 1966 under the guidance of head coach Ron Mason. During his 13-year tenure, Mason led the Lakers to three national championships and established a winning culture that would continue for decades to come. He was known for his strict discipline and attention to detail, and his players often credit him for instilling a strong work ethic and team mentality.
After Mason’s departure in 1979, the Lakers continued their winning ways with coaches like Jeff Jackson and Frank Anzalone, who each brought their own unique styles to the program. But in 1990, a new coach would take over and leave an indelible mark on the Lakers hockey program: Jim Roque.
Roque, a former Lakers player himself, took over as head coach in 1990 and would go on to hold the position for the next 19 years. During his time at the helm, he led the Lakers to their first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in 1996 and won the program’s fourth national championship in 1994. Under his leadership, the Lakers became a perennial contender in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and made appearances in the NCAA Tournament six times. Roque’s impact on the program was immeasurable, and his record of 432 wins is the most in Lakers history.
But it wasn’t just about the wins and championships for Roque. He also prioritized the academic success of his players, earning the team the highest grade point average of all Division I hockey programs in 2007. In addition, he was known for his dedication to community service and encouraged his players to give back to the community through various volunteer efforts. Roque’s leadership extended far beyond the rink, and his influence on the Lakers hockey program is still felt to this day.
In 2009, after Roque’s retirement, the Lakers looked to another familiar face to lead their team: Damon Whitten. Whitten, a former assistant coach under Roque, had also played for the Lakers during his college career. He continued the winning tradition of the program, leading the team to a WCHA playoff championship in 2013 and another NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018. Under his guidance, the Lakers have consistently finished in the top half of the conference standings and have been a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA.
The impact of these coaches on the Lakers hockey program extends beyond their achievements on the ice. Their leadership has created a culture of success, hard work, and dedication that has attracted top talent to the program. Many former Lakers players have gone on to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), including current star forward JT Henke, who made his NHL debut with the Colorado Avalanche in 2021.
But it’s not just about producing top-level talent. The coaches of the Lakers have also emphasized the importance of developing well-rounded individuals, both on and off the ice. Their focus on academics, community service, and character development has helped shape their players into not only outstanding athletes, but also outstanding members of society.
In addition to their impact on the Lakers program, these coaches have also left their mark on the larger hockey community. Mason, Jackson, Roque, and Whitten have all been inducted into the Lake Superior State Lakers Hall of Fame, and Mason and Roque have also been inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Their legacies will continue to inspire future generations of hockey players and coaches, both within and outside of the Lakers program.
The leadership of the coaches at Lake Superior State University has been integral to the success and continued excellence of the Lakers hockey program. Their commitment to discipline, hard work, academic success, and community service has created a winning culture that has had a lasting impact on the team, the university, and the larger hockey community. The legacy they leave behind is a testament to their dedication and passion for the sport of hockey.