In the past five seasons, Michigan State hockey has a combined record of 58-101-2. The team never finished in the top half of the Big Ten standings, never made the NCAA Tournament and has failed to win a single game in the Big Ten Tournament.
Adam Nightingale is here to try and turn the program around.
“We are establishing a culture of how we do things and it is one of humility but with a lot of confidence,” Nightingale said. “It is one that is going to be of accountability. One that is competitive — I think that is the greatest driver of development — and then passion. Guys have to enjoy coming to the rink. You have to come with your tail wagging.”
Before being in the head coach position, Nightingale first began his career at Michigan State after he transferred in from Lake Superior State in 2003. After a successful two-year stint as a player, where he appeared in 118 games and recorded 18 goals and 19 assists, he came back to MSU in 2011 for three years as his role was to oversee all team video as well as team travel.
Now, nine years later, he returns to his alma mater with a bigger role than ever before. His reason for continuing to come back time and time again is three-fold: family, tradition, and the people.
“I met my wife here and we had a kid here,” Nightingale said. “The tradition of the program, we all know it is a proud program and I think probably the most important is the people, the people involved with the university and community. I think it is a really unique spot.”
During his time not in East Lansing, Nightingale was coaching every stage of hockey under the sun. Since he graduated, he has served on staff such as the Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U squad and midget AA team, the Detroit Red Wings and the United States National Team Development Program, or USNTDP. Because of these experiences, he believes that he has a good grasp of the player development process.
“I am fortunate to have a breadth of experience coaching the top 14-year-olds all the way up to the National Hockey League,” Nightingale said. “I feel like I have a good understanding of the development path.”
It is no secret that Michigan State hockey has seen better days, and one of Nightingale’s goals as head coach is to re-establish Michigan State in the top tier of college hockey programs, but it will take a day-by-day effort.
“Long term, is getting it back to a premier program of college hockey,” Nightingale said. “I am a ‘Get better today guy,’ I do not look too far into the future. Every day is about improving and I think we do that and have that mindset as a staff and as a team, we’ll be in a spot we want to be.”
So far, Nightingale has been active in the area of recruiting, as he has preached he would, as well as the realm of staff additions, but those are not the only things Nightingale has been focusing on.
“We are looking at everything in the program,” Nightingale said.
He has high aspirations for his focus. He is not just what he is doing in the name of due diligence.
“We want to make every area of our program the best in college hockey,” said Nightingale.
Fans may be curious as to how a Nightingale-coached squad will play, and if he shares similar results as his desired comparison, those fans should be in for a treat. Nightingale said that he wants to share in his neighbor across the street team’s way of going about themselves, and that neighbor is men's basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo.
“You know when you walk into a gym that it is Michigan State basketball, for us it will be smart, fast and hard,” Nightingale said. “When you come into the rink and watch us play, you will see us play that way.”
There are many things for a new head coach to be excited about when they first take over a program, but Nightingale stated that the thing he is most excited about is having the chance to help people.
“Just helping the guys we currently have here and the incoming guys improve,” said Nightingale. “I think that is our biggest job. In college hockey, the age of the players is still at a development age. I think that is why people get into coaching— because they want to help people. I am excited about when we can get together as a group and formally start training and getting on the ice together and helping each guy be the best versions of themselves.”
Only time will tell if Nightingale can bring Michigan State back to the promised land, but one thing is for certain, there is new life in the Munn Ice Arena.
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