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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Icecat players move to oust coach

Ginny Polin/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

hockey vs ASU
Ginny Polin
Ginny Polin/ Arizona Daily Wildcat hockey vs ASU

The Arizona club hockey team has been the model of consistency in Tucson since 1979, as the Icecats have played the last 32 seasons under the program’s pioneer and head coach Leo Golembiewski.

But after a pair of underwhelming seasons and continuous discontent with the organizational structure of the team, the Icecats are in the process of removing Golembiewski and turning toward a more traditional club setting.

The Arizona Daily Star originally reported the news late Tuesday night, and several current and former players have confirmed the news since then.

Six different current players declined to comment further until everything becomes official, which is expected in the next few days. Neither Golembiewski nor associate coach Dave Dougall could be reached by phone on Wednesday night, and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Frank Farias, was also unavailable for comment.

But it appears Golembiewski, who won 634 games as head coach and still owns the trademark on the Icecats name, is on his way out, and the players will finally have the control they’ve been seeking.

“”I’m excited for these guys, just for the fact that I think it’s going to become a much more legitimate hockey program,”” said former Icecat and captain Zach Cherney, who played from 2006-2010. “”It’s going to be run the right way, and it’s going to be run the way that they want it.””

“”Don’t get me wrong, if it weren’t for Leo the program wouldn’t even exist,”” Cherney added. “”He did a lot for the program. But hockey has changed. The players have changed and ultimately the team belongs to the players.”” 

Former Icecat and captain Austin Capobianco said Golembiewski quickly lost control of his club, so much that the first two lines would have to handle substitutions on their own. The former defenseman referred to it as “”self-government.””

The longtime head coach was responsible for landing corporate sponsors, cutting a deal with the Tucson Convention Center and making ice hockey in Tucson an entertaining and profitable business.

But despite his success in the past that included a national championship in 1985, Golembiewski could no longer identify with this group of 18- to 23-year-olds. According to Capobianco, he lacked hockey knowledge, and that, coupled with his need for total control, led to a split locker room.

“”He would divide the locker room so much. I would say 98 to 100 percent of every team realized how crazy this guy was,”” Capobianco said. “”We figured that if we all avoided him and hung out together, he would just quit.””

Capobianco said the team thought about trying to get Golembiewski fired at times, but due to the current structure, there was really nothing they could do.

He built the program and is the reason for decades of success and excitement, but it appears Golembiewski’s departure will be announced in the coming days, and the Icecat players will have control of a program that’s been in the head coach’s grasp for 32 years.

The players are taking on a “”players elect process,”” according to Capobianco, who said he could be one of many candidates for the job. Former Icecat hall of famer, assistant coach and current ASU coach Jeremy Goltz is also rumored to be in the running.

It remains to be seen what direction the Icecats will take and whether or not Golembiewski is even on his way out. But all signs are pointing to a major change in Arizona club hockey, and it should come to light sooner rather than later.

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