A Q&A with Chris Bergeron, Part Three

By September 30, 2015Features

Falcon head coach Chris Bergeron recently sat down with BGSUHockey.com’s Kevin Gordon for an interview, covering a wide range of topics. Bergeron is starting his sixth season as BG’s head coach. This is the final of the three-part series. You can read part one here and part two here.

GORDON: What league do you see Bowling Green playing in five years from now? Do you see more realignment coming?

BERGERON: I don’t know that. I don’t have a crystal ball. Where Arizona State ends up is going to be a huge part of this whole thing. Whether or not that starts to knock over the first domino, I don’t know.

As we sit here right now, I love my job and see myself being here for a long time.

Chris Bergeron

If they join the WCHA, the Big Ten or the NCHC, that’s going to make each of those leagues have an odd number of teams. Whatever league they go to would want to add another team to make it even you would think.

Arizona State going to anyone of those leagues brings in a lot of different scenarios. I think they’ve said they’re going to start playing in a league ‘16-‘17 and they’ll play a ‘15-‘16 season as a Division I independent team, and then ‘16-‘17, they will be a part of a league. That will be a key factor in what our league looks like in five years.

The Bowling Green hockey program is much more of a positive presence in that conversation than it was three years ago in the last round of league mix up. That may mean we have choices. We’ll cross each bridge as we get to it. But I do think the first thing that has to happen is Arizona State has to pick a league they’re going to play in and then things should happen, will happen from there.

GORDON: When realignment happens again would you like to see former CCHA schools BG, Western Michigan, Miami, among others, in the same league again?

The Bowling Green hockey program is much more of a positive presence in that conversation (conference realignment) than it was three years ago in the last round of league mix up. That may mean we have choices. We’ll cross each bridge as we get to it.

Chris Bergeron

BERGERON: I’ve got so many personal thoughts with Miami (where he played and was an assistant coach for 10 years before being named BG’s head coach).

But when you think about what’s right, BG, Western Michigan, Miami University, they all sponsor Division I men’s ice hockey, they’re all Mid-American Conference schools, the fact we don’t play in the same league with them and we’re fairly close together geographically, we should be in the same league.

We have a long history with Ferris State. We have a long history with Lake Superior. We have a long history with Northern Michigan. Huntsville has been more recent. For us, the conversation starts with Miami and Western.

I’m not saying we’re searching for a way to be in the same league with them. I’m saying it’s unfortunate we’re not in the same league. But this year for the first time since the last year of the CCHA, they’re both on the schedule. They’ll both be in this building and we’ll be in theirs. That’s a good thing.

I know last year’s series against Miami reminded them and us how great that rivalry is and how great it is we’re playing each other every year, whether they’re league games or not. I wish they were. It would be good if they were, but right now, they’re not. But the fact they’re on our schedule is a good thing. Having all three in the same league would be favorable to everybody.

GORDON: How have you evolved as a head coach? How are you different as a head coach?

BERGERON: I’m wired a certain way and that hasn’t changed. I was fiery as a head coach of a team that wasn’t expected to win a whole bunch. I’ve been really fiery when the expectations are to win a whole bunch and there are expectations. I don’t think I’ve totally proven I can coach a team that has a bunch of expectations.

I don’t think anyone expected us to win 23 games last year. This year’s team has a chance to be pretty good. We’ll have to see what the last five years have done to help prepare me for this season.

Asst. coaches Barry Schutte and Ty Eigner have been Berger's staff for his entire tenure. Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com

Asst. coaches Barry Schutte and Ty Eigner have been on Bergeron’s staff for his entire tenure. Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com

The experience of what we’ve been through, the fact I’ve done a bunch of things where I learned by failing has been helpful. I hope that I’ve been more complimentary and will continue to be more complimentary to the staff, Ty and Barry (assistant coaches Eigner and Schutte), Dan (trainer Fischer), Scooter (equipment manager Scott Jess). The staff we have here makes the program what it is. I hope I’m better about talking about them and how good they are what they do, and how they’ve been a part of what goes on around here and what has gone on around here.

Other than that, I don’t think I’ve changed a whole lot. I seem to have more gray and less hair of what hair I do have. But you’re always constantly striving to change and improve as you gain experience.

GORDON: Have you matured as a head coach in terms of your answers in post-game press conferences:

The staff we have here makes the program what it is. I hope I’m better about talking about them and how good they are what they do, and how they’ve been a part of what goes on around here and what has gone on around here.

Chris Bergeron

BERGERON: The only reason that doesn’t come to mind is because I think I’ve always handled them fine. I remembering answering a question during my interview process. Jason Knavel (assistant athletics director for athletic communications) asked me how I was going to handle interviews and I said I was going to be honest and I’ve always felt like I’ve been honest.

Some of that honesty has been a little raw at times and a little immature. That’s a shot against me. But over the years, people I respect have said, you may want to be decompress a little bit more before those press conferences, not change your answer, but change how your present your answer after a game, so give yourself five more minutes to breath and give the game some thoughts so you can give those answers in a more thoughtful manner versus just mad or whatever.

If I knew that was happening at the time, I would have changed it. I just believed I was being honest and the answer I felt it to be. But I do think I’ve matured in that sense because the people around me have helped. It’s not because I care less. It’s because I’m less upset because it was a game we should have won that we find not t win. The more times you’re in that situation, you’re going to handle it better, whether it’s our team or individuals or me.

There’s definitely been growth there, just based on my being an inexperienced head coach when I started here. I’m not sorry for being that way because I felt I was being honest. Now, there’s ways to be honest without sounding immature, and I’ve made some growth there.

GORDON: You’ve often mentioned your focus is on today. How do you balance that against the big picture, especially when today may not be great or it may be a difficult loss or a game where the team plays poorly.

BERGERON: Just the experience of being a head coach has helped and I have great people around me, so that’s been big. I’m not a big reader, but I’ve watched a number of NHL and college coaches and I’ve listened to what they have to say, how they handle things. We’re always going to be about today, but I think I’ve kept better grasp of the big picture while focusing on the day to day.

GORDON: Have any aspects of being a head coach surprised you, not what you’ve expected or taken more time than you expected?

BERGERON: It’s never easy to get the criticism. As an assistant coach, the email, the phone or the story in the paper doesn’t have your name on it. That doesn’t mean you’re less involved, less committed or less into it. It just means it stops with the head coach.

Until you’re on the other end of that email or phone call or reading an article or a blog about how poor of a job doing, you just never know. You hear about it. You know it’s going to happen. But until it happens to you, you don’t know how you’re going to react.

The other thing is the relationship with the players. As an assistant coach, I thought I had really strong relationships with the players. I didn’t want that to change as a head coach. I know how great Ty and Barry are and players are going to develop stronger relationships with them through the recruiting process. Ultimately, they’ll just be closer with them. But I want to be able to keep a certain level of relationship with them as well. That’s difficult because you’re the guy carrying the whistle and putting up the lineup every day. That’s been a challenge and I take pride in that, and I’m trying to do better at it.

As a head coach, you’re always going to be subject to a certain amount of criticism and I’ve developed thicker skin over the past five years. I think I care as much as I did five years ago, if not more. I still love the players, but you still have to develop thick skin because there are always going to be people who don’t agree with all of the decisions, what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.

GORDON: Who are the people you confide in the most when you need counseling?

As a head coach, you’re always going to be subject to a certain amount of criticism and I’ve developed thicker skin over the past five years. I think I care as much as I did five years ago, if not more.

Chris Bergeron

BERGERON: First and foremost, my wife, Janice, who I lean on a bunch. She’s known me a long time and sometimes she believes in me to a fault. Then, Ty and Barry.

But you don’t always want to go to people who are so close and so tied in to it, and you need to go to people outside the program.

Jeff Blashill (the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings) has been a huge person for me to talk to. George Gwozdecky, Enrico Blasi (Miami’s head coach) have been a part of it. “Blash” has probably been the most consistent.

What those conversations have been, whether it’s Blash, Rico or George, they’re saying I know what I’m talking about because they’ve been through it. Just keep doing what you’re doing because you’re saying and doing the right things.

When do you like you’ve arrived as a head coach? You never feel like you’ve arrived. You always want more. You’re always pushing and striving for better.

That support helps a bunch, not that the support from your family and your staff doesn’t matter, but they’re in the trenches with you. You want to get somebody from the outside sometimes.

BG_Practice_Winterfest-0977

Bergeron and BGSU Ath. Director Chris Kingston share a conversation during last year’s Winterfest practice. Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com

(Athletics directors) Greg Christopher and Chris Kingston, and Jim Elsasser (assistant athletics director for internal affairs) have been huge for me. Jim’s been here all five years and he’s seen this growth. Jim’s a behind-the-scenes guy who doesn’t get a whole lot of credit, but I appreciate the support and the friendship he’s given me as a guy who is in the trenches, but not in the trenches, the day to day stuff.

GORDON: Is Bowling Green a job you could retire from:

BERGERON: It is. I’ve had a lot of questions about that. It’s a process of thinking through what is the best situation for me and my family, personally and professionally.

But I believe where we are today and where we can be, I believe this is a job you can retire from. This is a town and a community my wife and I can live in, and my family can live in for a long time. This is our speed. We love it here. I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be.

GORDON: If Enrico Blasi ever leaves as Miami’s head coach, would be interested in becoming that school’s head coach?

But I believe where we are today and where we can be, I believe this is a job you can retire from. This is a town and a community my wife and I can live in, and my family can live in for a long time. This is our speed. We love it here. I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be.

Chris Bergeron

BERGERON: I won’t talk about Miami’s head coaching job. Miami University holds a special place because I’m a graduate there and I worked there for 10 years, and my one son was born in Oxford.

Anyone who knows me knows if I said no to that I’d be lying. But I don’t think about things that aren’t in front of me. We’ll cross each bridge as we get there. As we sit here today, I think I answered the question. Why not Bowling Green? Why not Bowling Green for a long time? I think we’re just scratching the surface of where we can be.

GORDON: Do you have any aspirations of coaching in the NHL?

BERGERON: Saying or watching a friend of mine like Jeff (Blashill, who is a former head coach at Western Michigan and also was an assistant coach collegiately) go through what he’s gone through professionally is exciting.

Could I do that? I don’t think my network is there. I’ve had some conversations with George McPhee (a former Falcon who once was the general manager of the NHL’s Washington Capitals) about the pro game. But I really feel the college game is where you can really see development and growth in these people, and that’s where I think my strength is.

As we sit here right now, I love my job and see myself being here for a long time.

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined BGSUHockey.com after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. He now provides his features, notebooks, and insights with BGSUHockey.com to continue providing Falcon hockey fans with the in-depth coverage they've loved for nearly three decades. He can be reached by e-mail at Kevin@bgsuhockey.com and on Twitter at @KGordonBG.

error: Please contact Todd@BGSUHockey.com for photo rights.