First-year boys hockey coach Shjon Podein understands the Orioles have had their share of difficulties in the past few seasons. Last year’s 2-24 mark leaves this year’s club looking to make significant strides in the wins column.
Still, there is optimism in St. Louis Park’s locker room. Podein, a former NHL player who won the Stanley Cup in 2001, brings enthusiasm for the sport to the Orioles program.
As the Orioles prepare for their season-opening game , St. Louis Park Patch spoke with Podein to get his take on where his squad stands entering the 2011-12 campaign.
St. Louis Park Patch: How has it been getting acclimated to the St. Louis Park program?
Shjon Podein: It was a blast. It was fun. We’ve got some kids who are eager to learn and to get better and work hard, and it makes it easy as a coaching staff when you have that to come in and work with. So it’s been a lot of fun.
St. Louis Park Patch: How did you find yourself coaching the Orioles program?
Podein: We moved to St. Louis Park five years ago or so now. I got to know (former coach) Timmy Donahue and the youth organization. It came to a point where Timmy was ready to focus more on his kids and focus on their activities. My kids are mites, so it’s a good time for me to be around a little more. It’s good for them to see their dad coaching high school games and get to know the high school older kids and see daddy coach more and be involved in the community a little more than he was.
St. Louis Park Patch: How have you spent your time with youth hockey since retiring from the NHL?
Podein: I retired in 2003 and went over to Europe for two or three years. I’m just trying to add more things to the program for our kids, whether it’s a skate in between periods at a Wild game or putting on a Santa outfit and going out and skating around. It’s nice to be part of a community where there’s so many caring people. Having my kids involved in it is a lot of fun.
St. Louis Park Patch: Does this team have a good base to build upon?
Podein: It’s an interesting base. You’ve got veterans coming back that do not want to see a repeat of the last couple years, especially last year that had two wins. You’ve got young kids who have had success at the Bantam level and are ready for success. You put those two teams together and you’ve got kids who want more. As a coaching staff, we’ve raised the expectation level of these young men. We’re hoping this is a good combination to build on moving forward.
St. Louis Park Patch: What are your team’s strengths?
Podein: I would say the willingness to compete and work together. The willingness to work hard, and I think we’ve seen in the first two weeks a strong learning curve. Knowing the game and becoming more of a complete team. That’s something we’re going to work on throughout the whole season and get better at every day.
St. Louis Park Patch: What would make this North Suburban Conference season successful?
Podein: I’m not a coach who puts expectations in numbers. I don’t want to say 6-2 or 4-4 or whatever it’s going to be. I try to preach to the kids that you can control the things you can. That’s showing up and being the hardest working team on the ice, playing with a positive attitude toward each other. If you do that, I think you’re giving yourself a stronger chance for success, and if you don’t, that’s when you’re going to struggle.
St. Louis Park Patch: Has it been a fun ride so far?
Podein: We’ve had some hard working practices. We’ve had the kids working hard, and it will be fun to see how they respond when things aren’t going their way. Maybe it’s not your night. We’ll see if they’ll become a closer team or fall apart. My guess is they’re going to pull together.