Seth Appert could barely contain his excitement earlier this year after he was named a head coach of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.
“This is a job that I’ve been excited about for a long time,” Appert said. “I consider the NTDP to be one of the best coaching jobs in all of hockey. First of all, you have a chance to represent your country and USA Hockey.
“You’re dealing with elite players, elite athletes and human beings of our country. You’re dealing with very driven but younger and raw talent. You have an opportunity to mold them on and off the ice, which fits my strength. It’s not about hockey for me but also the way for them to live their lives in whatever they choose to do.”
Appert, who was head coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for the previous 11 years (during which time he developed 13 All-Americans and four Hobey Baker finalists), isn’t exactly a stranger to the USA Hockey coaching ranks.
His experience includes two stints (2008 and 2011) as the head coach and one (2007) as an assistant coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team that played in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
At the time of his appointment as NTDP U18 head coach, he was serving as an assistant for Team USA at the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship.
Appert also was an assistant coach for the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team that won gold at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship.
There’s no doubt those experiences made Appert something of an ideal candidate to take the reins of this year's U.S. National Under-18 Team.
“My experience with the U18s this past season at the World Championship gave me a first-hand understanding of what this tournament represents and the challenges you can face,” said Appert, who also was a coach in the 2008 NCAA Pontiac Skills Challenge and served as the President of the American Hockey Coaches Association. “Any time you’re around the best of the best and around NHL players and coaches it’s a tremendous learning experience on and off the ice.
“I’ll try to share the things I’ve learned with these young men.”
As the U18s coach, Appert will lead his team through the United States Hockey League schedule, as well as games against NCAA Division I and III opponents and in international tournaments.
While Appert’s team will give it their all in every game they’re in, the ultimate success of the NTDP isn’t determined by wins and losses, but rather on the development of skills and acquiring experience against older players.
Appert doesn’t foresee a problem in focusing on that philosophy, unlike at RPI where wins and losses were at the forefront.
“It won’t be difficult at all,” Appert said. “I love practice. I love helping young men develop. I’m very excited about not scaling back practice just to try to win in order to keep your legs.
“This place is about long-term development and putting time in to chase excellence long term and not to chase a win on Friday night.”
That being said, Appert doesn’t expect his team to mail in performances regardless of its opponent.
“I think we’ll still try to win,” he said. “Once the game is on these guys are elite competitors. You’re trying to win 100 percent but not trying to save energy and sacrifice development. Any competitor is still going to try to win
“That’s not going to be our focus during the week. We’re not going to sacrifice developing for winning on Friday night.”
Appert, who in his playing days was a goalie at Ferris State, already has a system in mind that he wants to implement with his team.
“All I know is we’re going to play a fast, attacking style of play and eliminate time and space from opponents,” he said. “Any time you put on that jersey it deserves the best plus every bit of energy you have.
“We’re going to implore our young men to do that every time they wear that jersey.”
Appert also wants his players to understand the honor that comes with wearing a national team uniform.
“The biggest thing you want your players to learn is the importance of how we represent our country and our family name,” he said. “Whatever you put your name on deserves your best. Those are things that promote day-to-day excellence.
“These guys are the best of the best. They have that talent. We try to teach them it’s not just about trying to play well on Friday night. It’s about trying to do your best every day you show up.”
At the end of the day, Appert knows that the goals he’s set will tell him if he’s accomplished what he intends to accomplish.
“There are a number of things we’ll look at and evaluate,” he said. “We want to develop young men of character. We want to develop the most elite players in our country and help them grow as hockey players so they can win championships for our country.
“We want them to represent our country and USA Hockey in a first-class manner on and off the ice.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.