Boys Varsity Ice Hockey
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BACK BEHIND THE BENCH: Edwards returning as Alton High hockey coach
Edwards to coach Redbirds
Pete Hayes, firstname.lastname@example.org
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EAST ALTON — While Mike Edwards’ absence from the hockey scene doesn’t approach the St. Louis Blues’ 49-year gap between Stanley Cup Finals, it was long enough to make the veteran coach miss it. So when Alton High came calling on the former SIUE coach, he seriously considered it.
In fact, he said yes.
Edwards will return for his second stint behind the AHS bench next season two years after stepping down as the SIUE hockey coach. He replaces Aaron Kestler, who stepped down following the past season.
“They’d talked to me about coming back a few times after I stepped down (at SIUE),” Edwards said. “When it opened up after last season, I finally decided it was time to go back.
“I still have a little bit of fire left.”
Edwards stepped down at SIUE in the spring of 2016 after coaching the Cougars six seasons. Prior to his college stint, he coached at Alton High six seasons, the last four as head coach.
Edwards said returning to high school hockey will take a bit of an adjustment, but it’s something he welcomes.
“Rules are a little different and the emphasis on what you are trying to accomplish is a little different,” Edwards said, “but it’s still hockey when you get down to it.
“It’s a chance to get back to coaching, which I love dearly and missed,” he said, “but without the demands of college coaching.”
While coaching at the high school level is demanding, Edwards said it can’t hold a candle to to amount of time and preparation required at the college level. And even though SIUE hockey is a club sport, its demands are high.
“Game day at SIUE is a full day’s work,” Edwards said. “I’d show up at the rink 90 minutes before the game and stay at least an hour after. And, of course, the games are much longer.”
SIUE’s games last as long as NHL contests, while Alton’s prep games in the Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association take about an 75 minutes or so.
“There were long road trips and games that started at 10:30,” he said. “At Alton, our longest road trip will be to O’Fallon.”
In the time he’s been away from the high school hockey scene, Edwards said there have been changes in the MVCHA.
“Well, for one thing, there are a lot fewer players and there are fewer teams,” he said. “Hockey is more expensive that a lot of other sports and that is a factor. Plus there are a lot of other sports competing for kids’ time.”
Edwards is a believer in having youngsters play as many sports as they want before focusing on one sport.
“Both my sons played select baseball and soccer as well as hockey,” he said. “I think it’s important to expose them to as many as they want to play. It makes them more well-rounded.”
Edwards said the Blues making their first Stanley Cup Finals in 49 years and the added interest in hockey will help hockey numbers at the grass roots level and improve the quality at older age levels.
“I guess you could call it trickle up instead of trickle down,” Edwards said. “But it’s true that when the Blues are doing well, it helps numbers at the kids levels.:
Edwards, a longtime Blues fan, said not coaching this season made more time available to watch the NHL team’s meteoric rise this season.
“I made one of the best decision I ever made this season,” he said. “I bought (Blues) season tickets. We’re able to get layoff tickets, including the finals, for a lot less than we’d have had to pay otherwise.
“My wife thought it was a lot of money when we bought them, which it was,” Edwards said. “But when I showed the prices of finals tickets now, she said it looked like a lot better deal.”