The Ohio State hockey program will have a new face behind its bench for the 2015-16 campaign in former Wisconsin standout defenseman Mark Strobel.
Strobel manned the blueline for the Badgers from 1991-1995 and was captain of the team in both his junior and senior years. Wisconsin reached the NCAA tournament in each of his four years there, finishing as runner-up in 1992.
His coaching career includes stints with Colorado College and the Twin Cities Vulcans of the United States Hockey League, before heading back to the NCAA ranks with current OSU head coach Steve Rohlik at Minnesota Duluth. He then moved on to University of Nebraska Omaha before landing in Columbus.
Although his stint in Omaha was his last coaching position in 2003-04, Strobel stayed involved in collegiate hockey, serving as a rinkside reporter for the Big Ten Network.
Now, he’s still settling into his new role in the Buckeye State, but Strobel said he feels right at home in Columbus.
“I’m very fortunate,” he said. “I’m very humbled by the opportunity at Ohio State. It’s a family, and everyone bleeds scarlet and gray.”
He was hired soon after the sudden departure of Brett Larson, who returned home to his alma mater of Minnesota Duluth to be the assistant coach of the Bulldogs after two seasons on the bench with the Buckeyes.
Senior defenseman Craig Dalrymple mentioned that despite the tough loss that came along with Larson’s departure, there are plenty of good vibes surrounding their new coach.
“He’s all business,” the captain said. “As a program, we’re all excited to see what he’s got and hopefully he’ll make us better hockey players and better people. He’s going to do everything he can to not only further my game but the rest of the team.”
A self-described “player’s coach,” Strobel tries to be straightforward in his coaching style.
“I don’t overanalyze things,” Strobel said. “Young people have enough on their plate already. What I try not to do is overcoach. I try to keep things simple but within a framework of what we need to accomplish. I’m not going to let them cut corners, but I’ll be the first one to hug them when they do something right.”
Rohlik and Strobel have a long history between them, which made it easy for Strobel to join the program.
“The most important thing is I know what he’s all about,” Rohlik said. “I know what he’s going to bring to the table. He’s going to have a work ethic second to none and he’s going to bring a tremendous passion to the office, to the rink and to recruiting. I’m really excited about his fit into our staff and with the guys we already have on board, I think he’ll be a great fit for everything.”
It remains to be seen how the program will move forward during Strobel’s tenure, but the bond the two coaches share can’t hurt OSU’s chance for future success.
“I think it’s going to be tremendous because when you’re brothers, and blood is thicker than water, you can be very real and honest with that person on a daily basis,” Strobel said. “I’m a family guy first and foremost and that’s going to translate to our team. That bond is unbroken amongst family members when you’re unbroken and pushing each other to the best you can be on a daily basis.”
OSU hasn’t been to an NCAA tournament since 2009, when it was swiftly eliminated by eventual champion Boston University in the first round.
Strobel recognizes that while there is not as much history to build on as his alma mater when it comes to hockey, that can change with the right formula.
Ingredient one is signing a special recruit who will work tirelessly, he said.
“When you look at our building and you look into the rafters, there is no tradition, there is no history,” Strobel said. “The Chicago Bulls didn’t have much going on before a guy by the name of Michael Jordan got there and turned things around.”
From there, there’s only one thing left to do.
“You’ve got to win hockey games, plain and simple,” Strobel said. “If you win 25 to 27 hockey games a year and you’re back into the NCAA tournament on a regular basis, by all means I believe the fans will show up and the people will want to be part of a winner. It’s just the way human nature works.”