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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Golembiewski remains cool after 29 years

    Arizona forward Robbie Nowinski races down the rink during a 3-2 Arizona  Icecats shootout-win over ASU on Nov. 4, 2006. Icecat head coach Leo   Golembiewski is six wins shy of reaching 600 while at Arizona, and could pos- sibly reach that mark during the irst home game on Nov. 7.
    Arizona forward Robbie Nowinski races down the rink during a 3-2 Arizona Icecats’ shootout-win over ASU on Nov. 4, 2006. Icecat head coach Leo Golembiewski is six wins shy of reaching 600 while at Arizona, and could pos- sibly reach that mark during the irst home game on Nov. 7.

    It was 29 years ago that Arizona Icecats head coach Leo Golembiewski packed his bags and moved from his hometown in Illinois to Tucson. After coaching seven years of varsity hockey in the high school ranks, Golembiewski made his home in the desert to start the Arizona Icecats club hockey team.

    He knew it would be hard to convince people that a hockey team could last in the desert, but that didn’t deter him from starting his journey. When the coach first mentioned the idea, people laughed at the notion of bringing hockey to a warm weather city, much less to the middle of the Sonoran Desert.

    “”The goal in the beginning was to build a college hockey team with American-born players,”” Golembiewski said. “”I didn’t know whether it would last one year or five years.””

    Now almost three decades later, Golembiewski is six wins away from 600 career wins with the club team. More than anything else, he is grateful he has survived this long as a head coach.

    “”I never gave thought to the numbers,”” Golembiewski said. “”My focus has been to try to survive and put a product on the ice that people would want to come see and, of course, make sure the players graduate.””

    Over his 29 years, Golembiewski has amassed 594 wins, 173 losses and 20 ties. Though the coach has had great success on the ice, his focus has always been making the players better beyond the game of hockey.

    The coach is known to have a no-nonsense approach to his job. He has high expectations for all his players. But at the end of the day, the players know he is just trying to get the best out of them.

    “”His philosophy is to educate the player first rather than to just focus on winning games,”” said senior forward Robbie Nowinski.

    Though Golembiewski is coming up on a milestone that few coaches get a chance to experience, the journey has not been an easy one.

    Since the Icecats make up a club sport at the UA, the team is not funded by the school and all players pay for a big chunk of their own expenses: for equipment and some for traveling. Each year the coach must find enough sponsors to come up with the funds necessary to keep the Icecats in existence.

    Golembiewski’s role extends further than just being a coach. He is responsible for everything the team needs to get done, whether it is scheduling road trip arrangements or making sure the team gets practice time at the Tucson Convention Center.

    “”Coach G is more than just a coach, he teaches life lessons,”” said assistant coach Dave Dougall.

    Though maintaining the Icecats has been a year-to-year struggle at times, the team has made great strides, from not having “”true”” home games – the Icecats played games in Tempe in the first year – to now playing in the 6,500-seat arena at the TCC.

    On the road to this potential milestone, Golembiewski has plenty of great memories. He guided the team to the National Championship of Club Hockey in 1985 and nine Final Fours overall.

    “”I remember when we got our first victory ever against the Southern California Champions, California Northridge in Burbank,”” Golembiewski said.

    The Icecats’ coach could potentially win his 600th game at the teams’ first home game against DePaul University on Nov. 7, depending on how the team performs in its season opening tournament.

    The Icecats will hit the ice for the first time against Robert Morris University, in the sixth annual American Collegiate Hockey Association Showcase, which is being held in West Chester, Penn., this year.

    “”It’s been an incredible journey that started way back in November of 1979,”” Golembieski said. “”It’s been a life’s work.””

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