New head coach and general manager of the Des Moines Buccaneers, Jon Rogger, takes over the team for the United States Hockey League’s 2012-13 campaign. Rogger, comes to the Bucs just four months after winning the Clark Cup with the Green Bay Gamblers as an assistant coach.
Last season wasn’t very illustrious for the Bucs, especially toward the end of the season when they careened to a 14-game losing streak and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year. But this year, Rogger brings his hard work ethic and a sure-fire winning system to a young Bucs team. He’s hoping he can get the team back to winning some hockey games.
“There’s a lot of things I’m bringing here. For starters, working hard. Day in and day out, every practice, every shift, every game. We’re going to play hard and we’re going to compete hard. When you start making the guys believe that they can do it, it’s amazing what can happen. Some of the systems I’m bringing with me that I learned through Green Bay, and I’m looking forward to using them. My philosophy to these guys is, just go out, work hard and good things will happen.”
Switching from an assistant coach in Green Bay to head coach and GM of the Bucs, there’s a distinct possibility of it being a double stressful job, but Rogger is confident of the experience he gained in Green Bay and felt it was his time to shine.
“Being in Green Bay for four years, I worked under three different coaches, each with a different style and each with a different philosophy. I picked up different things from each guy, not only the GM part but the coaching part. The coaching part is the easy part, it’s managing the kids; the billets, the away-from-the-ice stuff that goes on. When things go smooth off the ice, it goes smooth on the ice.”
Some hockey purists get a little down on the USHL, but this league adequately prepares a young player for Division 1 college hockey, as it mimics the National Hockey League as far as professionalism, training, schedules and equipment endorsements go.
“The league is a great league. That’s why it’s a Tier 1 premier league in the U.S. What’s awesome is that every rink is unique and special. Every team is very good. The owners are great and for the most part, it’s ran like the NHL. Everything is professional from game-day staff to operations to the game itself; equipment is also provided for these kids. The only thing we don’t do is pay the actual players. With that being said, everything is ran identical to the NHL. The coaches are great, the facilities are great. That’s the biggest thing, the kind of separation from youth hockey to now — big boy hockey as I call it.”
Time spent in the off-season as a coach is spent preparing and planning for the upcoming season, and it was no different for Rogger.
“Trying to get a mix of kids not only for this year but for next year. We went younger this year, we have 10 high school players. Not only do we need to do well this year, but we have to build for the following season. All along, we’ve been working on trades; working on the right mixes. You have some ’92-birth year kids who will help pick up the ’95’s. More or less, it’s a personnel part where all summer long we’ve just been trying to put the pieces in the puzzle.”
As our conversation wound down, I asked Rogger what he considered would be a successful season this year as the Bucs head coach in his first behind the bench.
“My biggest goal right now is to make the playoffs, because I know how hard it is to win at this level. Through playoffs, anything can happen. There was some games that we won last year that we probably shouldn’t have won, but we found a way. So if we get to the playoffs, it becomes another season.”