Falcon Head Coach Ty Eigner sat down with Drew to answer questions from various topics. Here’s part one of their conversation.
Drew Evans: It’s been a little over a month since you’ve been introduced as the new head coach. What’s the adjustment been like?
Ty Eigner: I’d say there hasn’t been a huge adjustment for my day-to-day because we’re not in season. We’ll find that out once we’re in season. I’d say the biggest difference now is there’s a lot more non-hockey stuff. Whether you’re talking about the hiring process of two assistant coaches or head coach’s meetings, and then the coaches caravan. Things like that that as an assistant coach were not part of my job description. Now there’s other stuff, and I’m not saying that in a negative way. It’s just stuff that was never part of my day-to-day. I’ve 100% embraced it, enjoyed it, and knowing that it’s part of what this job entails.
DE: What’s been a surprising commitment or responsibility you’ve had in your new position that you weren’t expecting when you took the job?
TE: The coaches caravan was a really unique experience with getting a chance to go out and see ex-players who are out at the events. Berge would come back last year and talk about how they were at events. That was fun to do, but then because you are a head coach it’s the nature of the business that you’re introduced to other types of people that normally the assistant coach wouldn’t have access to, meet with, or otherwise cross paths with. We met Bob Sebo at the coaches caravan in Canton at the (football) Hall of Fame and other people like that who are tremendous supporters of Bowling Green State University and Bowling Green athletics.
I think some of the relationships that I’ve started to make on campus have been a lot of fun. Such as President Rogers, getting to know him during the interview process. Also, some things at the end of the semester with (football coach) Scot Loeffler and I did with President Rogers serving the midnight breakfast and other stuff that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do as an assistant coach. That’s really been a positive and I’ve enjoyed doing that.
DE: I know you’ve done the “Chalk Talks” and other events like that. Is that something you enjoy doing?
TE: Yes. Obviously, the program means a lot to me personally and I’m very proud of where our program is at and what we’ve done here over the past nine years. Any chance we get an opportunity to go out in the public, whether it be on-campus or off-campus at the coaches caravan, and speak about something that means as much as it does to me and my staff? I’m 100% all for that. Those are things I really enjoy.
DE: What’s been your favorite aspect of your new responsibilities?
TE: Anytime you can speak about something you’re passionate about it’s not like “I have to do this.” I get to do this. It’s a lot of fun and those types of things I enjoy. I believe it’s all part of promoting what we do. Everybody who is not connected to our program and is an arm lengths fan of Falcon hockey doesn’t necessarily know the day-to-day. They don’t know how great our kids are in the classroom or where they’re from. They don’t know about our guys signing NHL contracts. They kind of know about the wins and losses and results piece and the direction the program is going. But, you get a chance to pull back the curtain and let people know about other stuff that they may not know about.
DE: Coming off your first NCAA bid in 29 years is something I’m sure you can enjoy crowing about to them.
TE: Everybody along the stop, whether they were hockey fans or not, were really supportive and congratulatory. Certainly as an alum and now as a head coach, you certainly appreciate those kinds of comments. Another cool thing on the stops is I ran into some old football players that were here during my time that we used to hang around with and have a lot of fun with. It was really cool to connect with them, and we had a really good time talking about the old times, talking about hockey and football, and the fun we had in Bowling Green. That was a lot of fun.
DE: You’ve made your first hires in Curtis Carr and Maco Balkovec. Can you describe what the hiring process was like for that?
TE: After getting the job I talked about “Where do we go from here?” I think everybody from an administrative standpoint was supportive of going through the HR process and not necessarily circumventing that. I was in 100% agreement in doing that. I thought professionally that for me, it was good to have to go through. Having never gone through it before it was good to learn that process and what’s it like. We had over 80 applicants for the two assistant positions.
I think the easiest thing would have been to hire two people that I was really comfortable with, that I would have known. I’m not sure if that would have necessarily been the right thing? I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have been, but to go through that process and have conversations with people you know, you don’t know, you kind of sort of know, looking at all the resumes that come through, interview people, and have difficult conversations with people that you have a lot of respect for professionally and personally. Those are all growth opportunities for me personally as a head coach.
Even though the process seemed to be a long one, I felt like it was necessary and that’s the process we’re going to go by. All in all, I’m thrilled with how it turned out. I couldn’t be happier with the two people we have coming on board as assistant coaches, and there were a bunch of really good people that I had to have difficult conversations with to say “Listen, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I’m going in a different direction.”
It was really encouraging to see the number of quality people interested in Bowling Green and the program and I believe it was for the right reasons. They knew what was going on here was good and over the past nine years, we’ve tried to do things the right way and make people want to be a part of this program. Whether they be players or coaches it was really rewarding.
DE: What kind of relationships did you have with the hires?
TE: Curtis was coaching in the USHL when I first met him. He had (Falcon alumni) Adam Berkle and at that time Adam was his captain. He called us about Adam and said: “I think this is a guy that I really think you should take a look at.” He was right. Adam was one of our first recruited players that came in and really did a nice job for us. He left his mark on our program in a positive way.
Curtis moved on as an assistant to Merrimack and as assistant coaches you sort of travel in packs to the different showcases and you run around together. You see the same people in the rinks and you develop a relationship there. He’s a guy that I 100% respect the way he did his job both at Youngstown and Merrimack. He’s a guy that was on my radar early when I got my position and I felt really comfortable with the kind of person he was, the way he did his job, and how he did his job as both the head coach at Youngstown and as an assistant coach at Merrimack. I think he’s going to do a great job here. He checked every box for us and then some.
Maco is a guy I’ve known close to 30 years now. He was at University of Wisconsin as a player and one of his best friends, Doug McDonald, is someone Coach Bergeron and I knew both pretty well. When I was home in summers I would go to Madison a bit and work out with some guys because I knew a bunch of guys down there. Maco is a guy I met while he was playing at the University of Wisconsin. We’ve just stayed in contact a little bit over the years. When he went back to Burnaby Winter Club to take that position I was recruiting the BCHL and Maco had a bunch of players from Burnaby Winter Club in that league and we sat down and watched a game together at the BCHL Showcase five years ago. We talked about what we were trying to do at Bowling Green. What players had been successful in our program and what kind of kids we felt fit what we wanted to do both hockey-wise, socially, academically, and how their character was. I think what we were trying to do here at Bowling Green was very similar to what they were doing at Burnaby Winter Club. It was about people first, about players second, and we had a mutual respect for us both trying to do the same thing at the same time.
We stayed in contact, and when the position came open he was one of, if not the first one, of the guys to send his stuff in. He text me to let me know “I sent my stuff in.” I was really happy he did because I know it was a big deal for him to go ahead and do that. He has a family entrenched in Vancouver and that’s his home. He’s got a daughter who’s going to be a senior in high school, and to go ahead and pick up to move at that point is a big deal.
Having that relationship, I think he’s going to fit. He’s incredibly passionate about what he’s doing and teaching. That’s the thing: both of them (Carr and Balkovec) have teaching backgrounds and they both have masters degrees. They focused on teaching early and it just so happens that instead of coaching at school buildings now they teach in rinks which is exactly in line with what we want to do.
DE: What does Carr and Balkovec, respectively, bring to the program?
They’re both uniquely experienced in what they have. Curtis’ route in getting his masters and coaching club hockey, then coaching at the different junior levels and being a head coach, and having to go out and recruit in the USHL, then going to the Hockey East and recruit out there it’s really competitive. It opens you up to a different recruiting area. Being a guy from Toronto he’s certainly really comfortable there. He’s comfortable in Detroit from his USHL days and got a lot of contacts there. He’s just the kind of guy that at the end of the day I can lay my head on the pillow at night knowing I’ve got an individual that is 100% going to do things the right way all the time.
I feel 100% confident in his character and who he is, and the skill set he has is really, really, really important to me. I feel great about Curtis, he’s a real good teacher and everybody that I’ve talked to couldn’t say more good things about their dealings with him whether it be in junior hockey or college hockey. It’s really, really rewarding when the second that becomes public people are like “That’s a home run. Good for you in getting Curtis. He’s a great individual.” In regards to Curtis, that’s how I thought about him.
I think Maco is a little bit of an “off the path” hire. He wasn’t in college hockey. Not a lot of people, unless you’re out west or you’re recruiting that area, really knew what was going on at Burnaby Winter Club. He wasn’t a name that popped up on a bunch of people’s radar right away. I think the amount of passion he has for doing what he’s doing? I look at Maco similarly to how I look at how I felt about being able to get the opportunity from Berge nine years ago. This is a guy who has been incredibly involved in coaching kids for a long time, from little guys to prep guys. He was hoping at some point he’d get this opportunity. Talking about him and talking with him through the interview process it was just really obvious that this guy has earned this opportunity and I believe, like Curtis, will be a home run.
The guys (players) are going to love both of these guys and the community is going to love them. Again, to us, and you know this Drew, I think we’ve talked about this before when you look at a resume a lot of people check the boxes. You look at the resume and say “Wow, this guy is really good.” But then you get a chance to interview people and you really get to know people. You look someone in the eye and have a conversation with them about certain things you get a feeling that this guy is sincere and he genuinely wants to be here.
You and I talked about how they’re not moving from Toledo to Bowling Green or from Detroit to Bowling Green. They’re moving from Boston and Vancouver. It’s a big move. There’s wives and children involved. A lot of this stuff is so similar to when Berge went through it. The fact that he would pick up and move to be a part of this with my family and I is humbling. They’re all in on this thing and I’m just super excited to get them here and get going.
DE: Is there a hope that Carr and Balkovec are going to be able to create some new pipelines in recruiting?
TE: I think recruiting is always a huge piece and talking to some people throughout the process when I was ultimately going down, narrowing the candidate pool down, I was bouncing some names off people I respect in the business, and pro hockey, and even out of hockey just talking to them about candidates. The recruiting piece is massive. It’s the lifeblood of what we do. As a coach, you’re only as good as the players you have, and I believe that certainly, our recruiting has been a strong suit for Bowling Green for the past nine years. I certainly don’t think we’re going to go anywhere but forward. I feel 100% confident in their ability to recruit, their “eye.” They see things how I see things which is important.
I think obviously Maco’s contacts out in western Canada are really big for us. We’ve had kids from the BC league (BCHL) and it’s a good area for us. Curtis’ contacts? I don’t know if Boston is necessarily going to be a market for us but it wasn’t necessarily a huge market for Merrimack. They had to go away from Boston because you had so many schools out there. They had to find their niche which is huge for us, and Curtis’ history in the USHL is really important. That’s obviously as good of a development league as there is in North America. So Curtis having contacts in the USHL is important and I think collectively we’re going to do it together.
I enjoy the recruiting process. I certainly won’t be out on the road as much as I was as an assistant coach, but I plan on being involved in it to the point where having our group recruit together and talk about things. We’ve already started that process in players. We lost Chase Pletzke to Miami. He’s not going to come in as a freshman this year, so we have an opening and we’re trying to figure out what the right thing to do and it’s been really positive so far.
DE: Have you decided how responsibilities will be assigned to either coach?
TE: We’ve briefly talked about it. One of the things that I’m looking forward to is us being able to sit down as a group and say “Ok, here’s where we’re at. What do you think? Curtis, let’s look at your experiences at Merrimack. What did you feel you did really well there? What you wish you could have done?” And then, “Maco, what do you think in terms of at Burnaby?” I think the good thing about our sport is there’s very few of us, other than the goaltending position, if I was on the road, even if I worked with the “D” more, and Barry went to a game up at Lake Superior running the “D” Berge would feel confident with that. I feel the same way about both of these guys. We’ll dole out the responsibilities on a day-to-day basis together, but we’re all comfortable working with both positions, forward and “D,” and we’ll get the goaltending position covered as well.