The search for a new Northland Pines High School boys varsity hockey coach is over as Patrick Schmidt has been hired for the job following a Board of Education meeting last week.

Schmidt takes over for Dave Cox who coached the Pines boys from 1990 to 1997 before returning to coach for the last six years.

He comes in being very familiar with Pines hockey having previously coached at several levels of youth hockey, as well as assisting and head coaching for the Pines girls team for over a decade.

Schmidt is the Chief Deputy for the Vilas County Sheriff’s Department, and decided to step down as head coach of the girls program following the 2020-’21 season. But his time away from Pines hockey did not last long.

“I missed it quite a bit,” he said. “I truly enjoy coaching. I enjoy teaching. I just love being in hockey. I enjoy seeing kids grasp not only the sport, but some of its concepts; giving them something that has taught me so much in life.”

Schmidt was born into a hockey family. His grandfather came to America from Canada where he had played professional hockey. His father played college hockey and was a coach. His two brothers played college hockey and Schmidt played college hockey in Kentucky.

“It’s always been a major part of my life,” he said. “After I was done playing, I decided to try coaching and it just fit.”

Schmidt was an assistant coach at a high school in Chicago, and from there went to teaching hockey to kids and young adults, whether for the Park District or in youth hockey.

“When I came up here in 1999, I took a break for awhile to get settled in and eventually got back into it,” said Schmidt. “My wife Sherry and I bought the pro shop inside the ice rink, and I was just always at the rink. I met up with Al Moustakis, who was coaching the girls team, and I offered to help because I had some coaching experience. I worked with Al for about a year and a half when he stepped down and I ended up taking over the program.”

Along with a new coach can come some differences in coaching style and philosophy.

“I’m not going to come in and say I’m going to change things, because the tradition of Pines hockey is so deeply rooted in this community,” he said. “It’s simply building on what’s already there, and that foundation is just huge for Pines hockey.

“I have never been about winning at all costs. Something we always strived for on the girls side was not only teaching the game but giving them life skills. Many of these kids go right from high school into the real world and I think that’s one of the things hockey is so good at, is it teaches you so many life lessons that can make you a successful person.”

That doesn’t mean that playing at Pines is going to be a day at the beach.

“That’s just not how hockey works,” he said. “You have to have a hard-work ethic to be successful in hockey. If you don’t put the practice work and time in, there’s no way you can expect to just turn it on and win games.”

Schmidt said he understands that when it comes to high school hockey at Northland Pines, there are always high community expectations about winning.

“I know what we have coming in,” he said. “Next season is going to be another growing year, but we’ll be building on something to look to down the line. In two years, they are going to be State contenders. In three years, they are going to be one of the powerhouses in the State.”

Schmidt hasn’t announced any other staff changes, but said he hopes his long-time assistant coach with the Pines girls hockey team, Darren Rubo, will be coming back to help with the boys team wherever he can.

Following a run of four-straight Great Northern Conference titles and an appearance in the Division 2 State Championships, Pines finished last year without a win in league play. The boys hockey season will get underway beginning Nov. 8.