Matt Shasby, part of the Anchorage hockey community for most of his 41 years, is one of three finalists for the head coaching job at UAA, his alma mater. He’s the only one who hasn’t coached at the college level, and at a Wednesday online forum he was asked why he’s the right guy to guide the Seawolves.
In his response, Shasby borrowed a cheer from another alma mater, Chugiak High School.
”It’s my incredible passion, my commitment. My connections in the community,” he said. “This job isn’t going to be about just being a hockey guy, and just being a hockey coach. This job is going to be about, for the next three to five years, growing our season ticket base, our connection to the community...
“So at the end of the day, the administration and the alumni and whoever else is going to have to make a decision: Are you gonna choose passion and commitment and connection to your local community and the ability to find the right (assistant coaches) to work with, or are you gonna go with somebody that really has none of the other stuff but maybe has a little bit of history as a Division III or club hockey coach?
“To me it’s pretty clear, right? Chu-chu-Chugiak.”
Shasby, a middle-school social studies teacher and longtime youth coach, repeatedly emphasized the advantage he would bring as someone deeply rooted in Anchorage hockey.
He recalled being a 7-year-old at a UAA hockey camp and deciding then and there that he wanted to play for the Seawolves. He wants today’s kids to have the same experience.
“The very first thing we do is we turn every learn-to-skate program in this city into a Seawolf learn-to-skate program, and the first jersey they put on is a Seawolf jersey,” Shasby said.
He said he will seek an assistant coach with a strong history of recruiting at the college level and a vast network of contacts and connections — and if necessary, he said, he’s prepared to take a pay cut to bring that person aboard.
“I’m not going to bring in somebody else who doesn’t have experience in college hockey. That will be my No. 1 priority, to find that guy,” Shasby said. “... And if getting the right guy means I’m getting less money, I’m prepared to do that.”
For his other assistant coach, Shasby said he wants someone “who isn’t afraid to live on the road for the next six months” looking for players.
UAA’s next head coach will essentially have to build a team from scratch.
Eliminated by the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents a year ago because of budget woes, UAA didn’t play last season and isn’t playing this season. In the last year the Seawolves have lost their head coach and all of their players, plus they lost their conference affiliation when the Western Collegiate Hockey Association disbanded.
A $3 million fundraising effort saved the Seawolves, “and it’s gonna be my job to continue to raise funds to make this program successful,” Shasby said.
“We have to be able to head out onto the recruiting trail and let kids know the program is long-term and sustainable,” he said.
As for selling players on the small, aging and in many ways inadequate Seawolf Sports Complex ice rink, Shasby hinted of a major remodel involving the new NHL team in Seattle.
“We’re gonna get with the Seattle Kraken and work with (them) and remodel our arena, and everywhere we go we’re gonna flash (the plans) and say, this is where we’re gonna be in three to five years,” he said.
“We gotta sell hope.”
Shasby was the first of the three finalists to appear at an online forum. The other two will participate in 4:30 p.m. Zoom sessions Wednesday and Thursday.
Steve Murphy, the coach at Division III Buffalo State and a native of Alaska, will appear Thursday. Chris Cosentino, who coached the New York University club team for 10 years, will appear Friday.