Fans of Redhawk hockey eagerly await the start to the new season every fall, and they have every reason to be impatient this year. There will be a new voice overheard on the Miami bench this season, and that voice belongs to Chris Bergeron.
Bergeron, originally from Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada, is no stranger to hockey at Miami University. He spent four years as a Redhawk where he was a conference champion and a two-year captain.
Bergeron came back to Oxford as an assistant for 10 years under former coach Enrico Blasi. During that span, the Redhawks went 226-139-37 with six NCAA tournament appearances, a national title game appearance and two conference championships.
After his tenure as an assistant at Miami, Bergeron became the head coach of the Bowling Green Falcons. During his nine years with the Falcons, he turned a five-win team the year prior to his hiring into a program with 20 or more wins in his last five seasons there.
So what does coaching mean to Bergeron?
“[It’s] the next best thing to playing,” he said.
Now, it seems that Bergeron’s coaching story, in a way, comes full circle. Bergeron admits that making the move from an assistant to taking on a program brought a lot of uncertainty and different challenges. Yet, those experiences and the ones he had as a player have prepared him for this new challenge.
“It was a special call for me and my family,” Bergeron said.
Returning to Oxford has been “surreal” for Bergeron.”
He had mixed emotions when Miami first approached him about the job.
While he empathized with Blasi, a friend and former teammate, he understood what it meant to come back to Oxford. But his return to campus, however, is not just a welcoming party.
The Redhawks have a tough task ahead of them. The NCHC is one of the most challenging conferences in all of collegiate hockey. With programs like St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and Denver, being crowned conference champion has continued to prove a challenge.
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But will Miami hockey be able to rise to that challenge?
“Why not?” Bergeron asked.
Even though Miami hasn’t met expectations the last few years, Bergeron does not want fans to get discouraged. He believes in the group in the locker room and the coaching staff, and he knows they are ready to go up against any opponent.
Bergeron also knows just how important the student body and fans are to the team. And he has one message for fans eager for the start of the season.
“We are going to play hard, have fun and make you proud,” Bergeron said.
He knows what the fans expect from the team, and more importantly, he knows that he can make this team and this program successful. The focus is not on the past or on building a dynasty.
“The focus is on this year and this group of guys, the 2019-2020 team,” Bergeron said.
The team’s chemistry is still formulating, but Bergeron knows that chemistry will be cemented once his players fight through adversity together on the ice.
The RedHawks’ first game of the new season will be at Goggin Ice Center on Sunday, October 6, against Bergeron’s former team, Bowling Green. While it will be a great atmosphere for fans and a unique experience for Bergeron, this Miami hockey team has no plans to step off the gas.