Shields, Tech hockey part ways

HOUGHTON – Former NHL goaltender Steve Shields has left Michigan Tech as volunteer hockey goalie coach, and the search has started for his replacement.

“It wasn’t because there were greener pastures somewhere. I needed a place and job where I could afford to live there,” Shields said in a Daily Mining Gazette interview Thursday. ” I want to thank the athletic department for having me there the last couple years.

“Even though it was a volunteer position, I learned a lot from Coach (Mel) Pearson, and (assistant coaches) Damon (Whitten) and Billy (Muckalt), and (athletic director) Suzanne (Sanregret). Ultimately, there’s a time to move on, and for me this was it.”

Shields was offered a position at Tech in development and alumni relations outside hockey, but according to him, the amount of money wasn’t enough for him to not have to spend his own money to keep working at Tech. He declined the offer Wednesday.

“We offered him a position outside of hockey, but couldn’t come to an agreement,” Sanregret said. “For various reasons it just didn’t work out – reasons we fully understand. We truly thank Steve Shields for all his contributions.”

NCAA hockey rules and regulations allow only a head coach and two assistant coaches to be paid, but they permit one volunteer position. Sanregret said Tech is “trying to do right by the volunteer position,” and Pearson is leading the search to replace Shields.

“We are already pursuing other people who will hopefully fill that void. We have some people in mind,” Pearson said. ” Steve was offered a position here and he’s decided that he wants to pursue other opportunities in hockey. I want to wish him all the best and thank him for his time here at Michigan Tech.”

Currently, Shields does not have another job lined up, but he’s “got some interest” from some professional teams.

“It’s not an easy door to get your foot into, but I’m going to do the best I can to do it,” he said. “I’ll be pretty busy trying to figure out what to do next.”

Shields was the first goalie in NCAA history to win 100 career games while playing for the University of Michigan from 1990-94, when Pearson was an assistant coach in Ann Arbor. He spent 10 years in the NHL, playing for six different teams. Tech announced bringing him on as volunteer goalie coach on Sept. 13, 2011, and he has played a key role in landing now-sophomore goalies Pheonix Copley and Jamie Phillips as recruits.

“Steve is invaluable and obviously that was a selling point to our goalies,” Pearson said in a June 25, 2012 Daily Mining Gazette article.

Shields talked with Copley and Phillips on Wednesday.

“It’s really, really disappointing for me that I can’t be there for them. The amount of feedback and texts and phone calls from (players on the team), I really want them to know how much that meant to me,” Shields said.

He stressed that there’s “no chance” Copley or Phillips will leave and that another goalie coach will come in and pick up where he left off, with a Huskies team trending upward.

“They spent a full year with me, and what I tried to get across to them is create a base for them so they understand what it takes to be successful at this level,” Shields said. “With the team that’s going to be in front of them, the biggest regret for me is (leaving) a program (when it’s) starting to regain respectability and win games. We have a legitimate shot at making a run to the Frozen Four.

” I’ve been traded six times in my life. It’s sports but I want to reiterate I’ve had such a great time up there.”