SCHENECTADY — A spotlight on him as he made his way across the ice, Josh Hauge was moments away from debuting as a new head coach of a Junior ice hockey team when he heard it.
“Hauge,” a fan shouted, “you stink!”
Hauge kept his head down, then lifted it when the opposing coach joked to him that the heckler must’ve been a fan of the team’s previous coach.
“No,” Hauge said, “that was my dad.”
A decade later, Hauge is now the new head coach of Union men’s hockey, the college’s flagship athletic program. During a recent sitdown interview with The Daily Gazette, Hauge recalled that memory from a game in Dubuque, Iowa, and what his father taught him that day regarding taking on a position of interest.
“People are going to love you — and people are going to hate you,” Hauge’s dad Joel told him. “Better be used to it.”
That’s a valuable lesson to have learned as Hauge takes over a Union hockey program coming off two consecutive losing seasons and a campaign that included the resignation of Rick Bennett, the Dutchmen’s national-championship-winning coach. Bennett’s Jan. 28 resignation followed the completion of a school investigation into “his coaching styles and practices,” but the school has never detailed its findings. Assistant coach John Ronan finished the 2021-22 season leading Union as interim head coach.
Hauge, 43, was introduced as Union’s new head coach on April 15 and signed a five-year contract to lead the Dutchmen. Previously an assistant coach at Clarkson, Hauge has been on the go since his hire at Union. Two days after he was introduced as the team’s new coach, Hauge, wife Allison, and sons Hanley and Landry flew to Naples, Florida, for the college hockey coaches convention, and began the process of making the Union program his own.
“My head has been spinning, but it’s starting to slow down now,” Hauge said. “It’s been a lot, but I’m excited to be here and have feet on the ground now.”
Inside Union College’s Garnet Room, Hauge recently discussed his coaching career and his life outside the hockey rink. (Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity and space.)
Question: You’re a native of Rosemount, Minnesota. Minnesota is a state known for hockey. How soon did you get on skates?
Answer: I was a late starter. I didn’t start until I was 10. [My] dad was actually a basketball guy, So kind of funny that [I] got into hockey.
Q: Was hockey the first sport you loved? What other ones did you play?
A: I played a little bit of everything growing up — football, baseball, soccer and hockey. But, yeah, from an early age, hockey was kind of what I was drawn to.
Q: What got you interested in coaching? Who were you influences?
A: If you asked anybody through middle school, high school — everybody thought I was going to be a coach. That’s what I wanted to do, and I was fortunate enough to have really good coaches and people that cared about me. My dad was one of them, and a guy named Tom Murphy who coached me all the way up from when I started until we got into high school. My dad and him are the two big people growing up that were influential.
Q: You experienced replacing a head coach with the U.S. Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm during the 2011-12 season, and then you were let go 15 games into the 2013-14 season. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?
A: When we took over, it was an exciting time, and everything was so new and just kind of ran it exactly how I wanted to. I’d just had the experience of coaching in Fairbanks and having a lot of success there. We ended up having a nice run and making the playoffs and then I felt really good about where I was at. As things kind of progressed, I thought I changed my style to appease ownership, to appease other people, and that was my downfall. . . . I didn’t run things the way I wanted to, because of the pressures of ownership and coaching someone whose kid was on the team. Just things like that were a little more difficult. But I did enjoy it a lot, and it was a great learning experience for me.
Q: You mentioned in your introductory press conference that your son Hanley suffered a neonatal stroke. Can you discuss that situation and how your family had to handle it?
A: That happened when I was in Tri-City and I was the head coach there. Hanley was born and we were in the hospital, and we found out he had a stroke. So we got transported to [a hospital in] Omaha [Tri-City plays in Kearney, Nebraska]. I think the day before we got transported, that’s when I was let go. So, basically, your whole world fell apart. You’re coaching in the USHL, you think you’re destined for great things and being compared to big-time coaches, and then all of a sudden, your baby’s born, he’s in the hospital [and] things aren’t going right. It was a really challenging time in my life. [Hanley] got out right before Christmas, so that was nice to be able to have Christmas with family and you get out of the hospital. That was probably the best Christmas present you could ask for.
Q: How is Hanley now?
A: He’s great. There’s nothing wrong with him at all. He’s completely healthy.
Q: How did you wind up as an assistant coach at Clarkson?
A: My boss in Fairbanks, Alaska, was Rob Profit, and he knew Casey Jones really well. I wanted to get into the college game for a long time, and that was something that I was kind of striving to get to. When the position opened up, I called Rob right away and asked him to call Casey, and he did. I spoke with Casey, and it just seemed like a good fit right away. He offered me the position pretty early in the process. I had never been to Potsdam, New York, and took the job sight unseen.
Q: When the Union job opened up after the season ended, what attracted you to the job?
A: When Rick [Bennett] left, I asked Casey to reach out and make a call on my behalf and just kind of see if they were going to do something, or what they were going to kind of do. I was pretty active and chasing after it. It was, for me, a spot where I thought, “You can turn this around, and you can get it going.” I think there’s a lot of good pieces here, so I was excited about it. And just the opportunity to live in a spot like Schenectady, I was really excited.
Q: When Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin said you were the next head coach of the Union men’s hockey team, what was the reaction like of you and your family?
A: Well, so I was actually running a youth practice when . . . he called. . . . So when I got it, I wasn’t able to call my wife right away. That’s probably one of the worst youth practices I’ve ever ran because a lot was going through my head. I got off the ice, took my two boys to get some ice cream and said, “Hey, are you guys open to moving?” I had already taken the job. I took it right when he offered it. So I talked to them and then called my wife. All of a sudden now, it’s like there’s a lot to do, everybody’s excited, and then it hits you that you have a lot to get done
Q With athletic scholarships and a new arena on the horizon, how does that help you in recruiting?
A: I think it makes a huge difference. You have the ability to be on an even playing field. Some of these schools are offering the ability to go to school for free, and we don’t have that right now. But it’s one of the things that they’ve had success without scholarships. So I think it’ll make things easier. And, then, the new facility, I think that it just keeps the momentum going. You can get a little buzz from a coaching change, and then you get a little buzz from getting the scholarships — and, then, a new building. I just think it gets the ball rolling downhill.
Q: Any update on the status of assistant coaches John Ronan and TJ Manastersky?
A: Right now, they’re both working with me and we’re getting to know each other, and I’ve been really happy with how they’ve been. It’s an awkward situation anytime someone comes in. We’re going to continue to evaluate as we go, but enjoying working with them right now and getting to know them. I would say here within the next couple of weeks, we’ll make a decision on what’s best for Union.
Q: Let’s have some fun here to close it out. What type of music do you like?
A: I guess I’m more of a ESPN Radio-type person. I don’t listen to a ton of music.
Q: Favorite tv show?
A: “Breaking Bad.”
Q: Favorite movie?
A: I guess I go with the “Shawshank Redemption.”
Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: Pretty much anything Minnesota is kind of what I cheer for, although the Minnesota Wild traded Nico Sturm, so I’ve switched alliances to Colorado for the playoffs.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: Oh, yeah, I don’t know that I have one in particular. But I really enjoy the players that I’ve coached and being able to follow their successes after [college]. I think the guys that I coach that I’m able to watch, that’s my favorite.
Q: What would you like to say to the Union hockey fanbase?
A: Well, you know, anytime there’s a change, it’s always a difficult situation. I’m excited to get going and working with the team and the community. I want to be very involved with youth hockey, with youth sports and the Union community. Please feel free to come and introduce yourself. I’m maybe not the most outgoing person right away, but once you get to know me, I try to be genuine and I try to have really meaningful relationships. I’m so excited to get going.