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Bar has been raised for Mavericks men's hockey

The Mankato Free Press provides its view on the impact of Minnesota State Mankato's decision to hire a new head men's hockey coach.

Mankato Free Press Editorial, 4-22-2012

Minnesota State University’s decision to hire a top-­ranked hockey coach and pay a top-tier salary has rightly created high expectations among fans, boosters and civic leaders for the team that has come to be key to winter entertainment for downtown Mankato and the Mankato region.

MSU was clearly aggressive in the hiring of Nebraska Omaha assistant coach Mike Hastings. The university actively recruited Hastings and paid a salary of $225,000, nearly 40 percent higher than former MSU coach Troy Jutting’s salary.

Clearly, Hastings has a solid record.

He has worked with top-notch WCHA coaches including Dean Blais at Omaha and Don Lucia at Minnesota.

He was the United States Hockey League’s all-time winningest coach in 14 seasons with the Omaha Lancers.

He won two national championships, three USHL Clark Cup titles and more than 500 games. He was a two-time USHL coach of the year and five-time general manager of the year.

We’re glad Hastings is familiar with winning, and we’re sure he will not accept last year’s number of MSU wins as a starting point. The expectations should be much higher.

The MSU team has talent, but it has not been cultivated in the last few years.

The team was competitive in some games and even beat some powerhouses in recent history like the former national champion University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

MSU says it has recommitted to the success of the hockey program, and that also should make clear that expectations are high.

MSU Athletic Director Kevin Buisman said hockey is being elevated as a marquee program at MSU. “President Davenport suggested that national prominence of the uni­versity and national prominence of the hockey program go hand in hand,” Buisman told The Free Press last week. “If there were questions about how important hockey is to Mankato, I think today we answered those.”

That should give the community confidence that MSU has put a lot, if not all, of its money in the pot, confident it has the hand to win the game.

The goals for the program are challenging. It needs upgraded facilities and the Legislature does not appear inclined to provide them again this year, after 10 years of rejection. The relationship between the team’s success and the success of the Verizon Wireless Center are inter­twined now more than ever, yet attendance at hockey games has been spiraling downward at an alarming rate.

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