CAHA ‘in a good place’ with Fritsche new Elite director
During the 2016-17 season, Marc Fritsche coached a pair of Jr. Coyotes Tier I teams and along with head coach Steve Potvin, took the 2002 team to USA Hockey Youth Nationals and the 2006 team to a second straight state championship.
He’ll coach the 2006 team and the 16U Tier I team in 2017-18, but will be most busy in his new role as the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association’s (CAHA) Elite Hockey program director.
In this role, Fritsche will provide direct oversight to the 11 Jr. Coyotes elite teams and coaching staffs, competing in the Mite to Midget age divisions in the local Arizona Youth Hockey League and the prestigious Tier 1 Elite Hockey League levels.
“I’ve been with the program the last two seasons and when the position became available, I put my name in the hat,” said Fritsche. “I’ve done it before (with the Cleveland Barons program) and I had that experience behind me. Then lo and behold, this great opportunity was given to me and I’m very excited about it. It’s a different market here than in Cleveland where we had Columbus, Youngstown, Pittsburgh and Detroit all within two hours. It made scheduling easier, but as far as the structure, it’s very similar.”
Prior to joining the Jr. Coyotes, Fritsche was head Midget coach and program director for the Barons, also of the Tier 1 Elite League. During his 15 years with the program, Fritsche played a key role in developing the program, its players and coaches to consistently compete at the highest level. Under his leadership, Fritsche’s teams captured two Tier I Elite League championships as well as a third-place finish at the USA Hockey National Tournament.
During the 2016-17 season, the Jr. Coyotes swept the state championships at the Tier I 14U, 15 Only, 16U and 18U levels, and captured nine additional state championships at the younger elite levels.
Fritsche said he accepts the challenge of building on this strong foundation of excellence and success. His goal is to create an all-inclusive and unified program focusing on skill development, teaching and the recruitment of quality coaches and players, with the goal of becoming a top regional and national elite hockey program.
“Our job here is to keep building and growing hockey in Arizona and to compete on a national stage,” Fritsche said. “The organization as a whole is in a good place right now.”
Since taking over in March, Fritsche has been quickly getting acclimated to what the new job will entail and what he’ll be doing over the summer months leading in to the 2017-18 season.
“Everything that we’ve done in the past month or so had already been in place, so I haven’t really put my spin on anything at this point,” said Fritsche. “The first couple of days, we had to make our coaching announcements and we were the proud host of the (14U and 15 Only Tier I) national tournament held at the Ice Den Scottsdale. Immediately following Nationals, we held tryouts for 18U down to our 2004 team. That led into Tier 1 Elite League meetings, which luckily, were held here in Phoenix. Then came tryouts for our 2005 team on down to our 2010 team.
“So yeah, it’s been a whirlwind start, and the last month has been crazy, but it’s part of the job and once it slows down a bit, I’ll be able to start putting the infrastructure in place to keep moving forward.”
Two moves that Fritsche has already implemented include hiring Potvin as the skills director for the organization and former Canisius College goalie coach Mike Nepsa, who will serve in the same role working with Jr. Coyotes goaltenders.
As for next year, Fritsche anticipates more success, both on and off the ice.
“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Fritsche. “Just continuing the success we’ve had and building on it.”
— Matt Mackinder