GENEVA – It is always when you least expect it that things can take a turn.
Or in the case of new Chicago Steel coach Mark Abalan, hockey can happen, which is pretty much how the former Shattuck St. Mary’s (Fairbault, Minn.) U16 head coach took on the role of Chicago Steel assistant coach before quickly becoming the team’s new head coach.
Former Steel head coach Dan Muse left to become an assistant coach for the NHL’s Nashville Predators after guiding the Steel to the United States Hockey League title. That sent Abalan into the lead role behind the Steel bench.
“I guess the only way I can say it is that hockey happened,” Abalan said when describing the promotion, which happened before he even set foot into the Steel’s Fox Valley Ice Arena home. “It was good fortune. To be a head coach in this league was always a goal of mine.”
For Abalan, it began the first week of June. During that time, he started having discussions with the Steel about an assistant position with the team under Muse. Things began to get more serious when mid-June rolled around, and Abalan had a meeting with Steel upper management. Then came word that Muse was in talks with Nashville for an assistant position.
“I had a feeling something was going to happen,” Abalan said. “I just did not know when, but it happened pretty quick.”
Abalan said his mindset going into his new assistant position – or so he thought – was trying to learn as much as he could from Muse and understand the vision he had set for the team.
“Now it’s my plan and my vision,” Abalan said. “After being a coach in hockey for the last 16 years, it was time for me to be the head coach somewhere.”
Abalan said he will hire an assistant coach before the new season starts. He characterized his style of coaching as making sure his team will be a hard-working team and one that will set the pace of the game.
“I am thrilled to come into a situation where there is a mindset of winning and there is already a winning culture in place,” he said.