From Sault This Week
By Randy Russon
He is as down to earth a person as there is in the hockey world. He has never made the game about himself and is known to always credit success to the team over any individual.
He is long-time, former Sault Ste. Marie under-18 hockey coach Mike Hall, who is now the headmaster of the men’s program at Sault College.
He is rather easy to talk to. He is known to be straightforward and up front. He can be hard-nosed and aloof but has a reputation for fairness and honesty. Mostly, he is a legend in Sault hockey circles who always puts the team above himself.
Hall started with the vaunted Soo Legion program in 1983 at the age of 18. He began as the trainer, moved up to assistant manager, then assistant coach before finally becoming head coach in 1993. As the illustrious Soo Legion became the equally renowned Soo North Stars, Hall stayed on as head coach of the esteemed Great North Under 18 Hockey League program for 20 years before retiring at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season.
In a 12-year span to conclude his run with the Soo Legion/Soo North Stars, Hall was behind the bench as head coach for 10 Great North playoff championships as well as two gold, one silver, and two bronze medals at the All Ontario provincial playdowns. And during a spectacular five-year period that put an exclamation point on his stay with the North Stars, the team rang up a rousing record of 156-9-9 in 174 games.
After a few years away from the game, Hall took over as the men’s head coach at Sault College and in the 2018-2019 season — which was the school’s first venture into the rinks of the Division 3, American Collegiate Hockey Association — he piloted the Cougars to a stunning national championship.
Now, as he prepares and gets ready for the 2022-2023 campaign as the head coach of the Sault College men, Hall said he is looking forward to a season that won’t be affected by COVID. Having since moved up to Division 2 status from Division 3 as the only Canadian men’s team in the entire ACHA, Hall anticipates a ’22-23 season in which Sault College can once again play host to home games now that the Canada-United States border is open — and American teams are willing to head this way.
The Cougars did manage to play 15 regular season games — including four across the St. Mary’s River against the Lake Superior State University Lakers ACHA club team — but not a single one was on home ice as part of posting a winning record of 8-4-3 over the course of the 2021-2022 term.
“Hopefully the challenges of the past three years are in the past,” Hall relayed to Sault This Week over a recent lunch get together at the Blockhouse Pub and Eatery in the Sault’s Canal District. “All I can say is that I feel good about where we are headed as the Sault College men’s hockey program and members of the ACHA.”
Hall likes the folks who he is associated with at Sault College and said he enjoys working with a committed hockey staff that includes the Cougars head scout and recruiter Charly Murray. Before heading to Sault College in 2018, Murray spent decades and decades and decades as a junior A hockey scout and assistant coach.
“I trust Charly as someone who has been a scout for so many years and knows what a player is all about,” Hall relayed. “If Charly messages me and says he has a player who meets all the requirements as a student, then that is good enough for me. It’s all about trusting your staff and I trust Charly to do his job.”
Murray has already helped to recruit a number of new student-athletes to Sault College for the upcoming school/hockey season. Among the notables are two graduate players from the reputable Dryden Ice Dogs of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League — defenceman Chase Muswagon and forward Pineshish Whiteduck.
Both Muswagon and Whiteduck played conclusive, effective roles in helping Dryden to a third place finish during the 2021-2022 SIJHL regular season and through two rounds of the playoffs. And in addition to their solid hockey playing abilities, Muswagon and Whiteduck both check the boxes as individuals of good character and good academic standing. Muswagon has enrolled in the Fish And Wildlife Conservation Program at Sault College while Whiteduck will study Business.
Indigenous peoples, Muswagon hails from The Pas, Man. and Whiteduck calls Maniwaki, Que. home.
Another newcomer to Sault College for the upcoming ’22-23 school term is goalie Cedric Jaubert. Hailing from Papineauville, Que., Jaubert has previous ACHA Division 2 experience with the Detroit-based Adrian College Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, among the returning players from the ’21-22 Sault College squad for ’22-23 are several local lads who all previously performed well in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. They include defenceman Jordan Ritchie and forwards Noah Boman, Caleb Wood and Ty Zachary.
Ritchie skated in the NOJHL for both the Elliot Lake Wildcats and Espanola Express while Boman, Wood and Zachary all played for the Soo Thunderbirds. Wood also performed well in the NOJHL for the Thunderbirds cross-border rival Soo Eagles.
Hall noted that others who played with the Cougars in ’21-22 might also be part of the ’22-23 edition of the Sault College men’s squad.
“We are just waiting to see who else we might have coming in before we make a promise that we can’t keep to a player who was here last year,” Hall said evenly. “We also want to make sure that the player will know and understand his role and be good with it.”
(Originally published at https://www.saultthisweek.com/sports/local-sports/hall-of-fame-coach-looks-to-22-23-season-as-a-leader-of-sault-college-mens-hockey)