When he was playing goalie for the Union College men’s hockey team from 2002 to 2006, Kris Mayotte never envisioned himself as a coach.
Fifteen years after he graduated from Union, the 38-year-old Mayotte is getting the opportunity to run his own program.
Mayotte was introduced as new head coach of the Colorado College men’s hockey team on Monday. He replaces Mike Haviland, who stepped down March 20 after seven seasons. Mayotte comes to Colorado College after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Providence under head coach Nate Leaman. Mayotte played for Leaman at Union for three years. Mayotte was also a volunteer goalie coach at Cornell and spent two seasons as an assistant coach at St. Lawrence.
“I’m still pinching myself,” Mayotte said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “You walk around Colorado College and you see the $65 million arena that’s just about to be finished, and the world-class education people [get] there. And you’re in Colorado Springs, and I feel like I’ve been given the keys to a program that has the potential to be the best in the country.
“Anytime you’re considered for a head coaching job as an assistant, you get all the chills, and it’s really, really exciting. But the more and more I got into this, I felt like this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I couldn’t be more excited and excited to get to work.”
Mayotte wasn’t the only one who thought he was never coaching material. When Leaman was asked if he ever thought Mayotte could enter the coaching ranks after his playing days at Union, he wrote in an email, “No, no, no!”
“That’s correct,” Mayotte said with a laugh. “That’s accurate.”
But Leaman has seen Mayotte grow in his time as an assistant coach. They won a Frozen Four together at Providence in 2015, and they guided Team USA to the World Junior Championship in January.
“He has won championships,” Leaman wrote. “Recruiting top players and great role players. He has coaches all aspects of team. He is a very bright young coach.”
Mayotte said he has grown and matured since entering the college coaching ranks a volunteer assistant coach at Cornell.
“That’s a big part of what my belief is and why I believe in schools like Union, St. Lawrence and Colorado College,” Mayotte said. “The amount of growth that someone can have through college and what college athletics and a good leader for him, I’m living proof. I got to Union, and I wasn’t the greatest student. I slid under their admission standards. I probably had a lot to learn in terms of how I conduct myself and how to mature as a man when I got there. Union changed my life. Nate was a huge part of that. That’s a big thing that makes this job easy for me. I don’t have to pretend I believe in that. It makes my job a lot of fun because I feel like I can have an impact on young men’s lives.”
Mayotte previously interviewed for head coaching positions at Alaska Anchorage, St. Lawrence and Dartmouth. He said the interview process with Colorado College was different.
“The other three I had connections to,” Mayotte said. “I think I had to do a little more work. This one [Colorado College], quite honestly, I really wasn’t expecting. I was going to find a way to get into the mix, but they got in touch with me early on. We just kind of hit it off. I think there’s a vision of what Colorado College as an institution is trying to accomplish and where they want to go. And then, obviously, a vision for the program.”
Mayotte and second-year Colorado College athletic director Lesley Irvine hit it off right away.
“We are thrilled to welcome Kris to the Tiger family,” Irvine said in a press release. “Kris is the right leader at the right time for the Colorado College hockey program. I learned quickly why he was known as a rising star. He is a winner, a relentless recruiter and an exceptional leader. Kris is a liberal arts graduate who understands combining academic and athletic excellence. He is positioned to be an outstanding head coach as we plan to move the program forward and open the doors of Robson Arena.”
Mayotte takes over a Colorado College team that went 4-16-2 and finished seventh in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and was 4-17-2 overall. In the seven years Haviland coached the Tigers, they went 67-153-22. They haven’t had a winning season since 2011-12.
“This isn’t about me,” Mayotte said. “This isn’t my team. This is the players’ team. This is their opportunity to do something special in their college careers. I’m here to show them what it takes and helped them achieve those goals and push them and hold them to a standard that I know is required to be champions, but it’s about them.
“For me, where I’ve had success as a coach in my career is that I feel like I can get the most out of guys. But when they know that when I’m asking something of them or if I’m hard on them, that it’s in their best interest and it’s the best thing for them. It’s never about me, it’s always about trying to make them as good as they can be.”
Mayotte will be back at Union Oct. 15-16 when the Tigers visit the Dutchmen for a two-game series at Messa Rink.
“I can’t wait,” Mayotte said. “It’s actually crazy. We start at home against St. Lawrence, and then our first road trip is at Union College. You can’t make that stuff up.”