By Kaity Coisman
GREEN BAY – After a career of 300 wins, 11 state tournament appearances and two state titles, including the 2023 state title, Cory McCracken will take on an assistant coaching position at Minnesota State University.
In reflection on his 17-year career with Notre Dame Academy, McCracken looked back to where his career began.
“I started coaching when I was in college my junior or senior year… They needed help and so I volunteered to help them, it was a 13-year-old team, and it just kind of took off. I really liked it; I enjoyed it and took a high school club team the following year and never turned back after that.”
After finding enjoyment in coaching and continuing to be involved with a sport that he loved, McCracken said that he was able to find joy in not only the game but the players he coached. At the high school level, “I think for me it’s just about seeing the players who you get to know and have a relationship with and start to see them have success. I think for me that’s the joy in coaching, just watching young guys. Like this age group has been a blast to coach 14 year olds all the way through 18 year olds, they are such an impressionable group, and you have a chance to really help their developmental process, so anytime one of your players has success… that is a really enjoyable process for me,” McCracken said.
Coaching isn’t without its lessons and McCracken said that his biggest learning lesson wasn’t in the fundamentals of hockey, but the fundamentals of relationships.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last 17 years was probably — it sounds cliché — but I don’t think the players really care how much you really know about the game or what you want to teach them, I think the first thing they want to know is that you care about them as an individual and that you have their best interests at heart. And when you have a good relationship with your team, your team is going to do a lot of things that are going to help A, themselves get better, but B, they are able to do some special things as a team,” reflected McCracken.
This lesson has led to some of the greatest coaching moments for McCracken and the Notre Dame Academy Tritons. “When you look back on it 17 years later, the years have flown by, but the amount of special people that have been in this program is just amazing to think about… Those are the most important pieces that stand out to me. The wins are fun, and the wins are exciting, but it’s more about the success that they’ve had as individual people, especially the success they’ve had post-graduation or leaving our program that’s what caps it off. That was their personal goal, that was their mission of what they wanted to accomplish, it is fun to see them go do that and have some success,” McCracken said.
Cory McCracken’s coaching career does not end here, he will be joining the Minnesota State University hockey program as an assistant coach.
“We have a shared mindset on player development so I think that is going to continue for me, I think it is a primary piece of why I coach is player development, so that’s going to be a big piece of what I do at Minnesota State. I am really excited about the recruiting aspect of it and finding kids that are a really good fit for our program, but as people and as hockey players. I think the most important thing is to carry on the tradition of excellence that the team has had for the last 10 years. They’ve had a lot of success as a hockey program and their facilities are top notch, they’re outstanding facilities and they have a passionate fanbase. I think for me now going out of the high school game and into the college game it just gets to be something that I see at the high school level just amplified by like 1,000,” explained McCracken about his excitement towards joining the Minnesota State University program.
Although, coaching at a new level will not come without its differences.
“The maturity of the players is probably going to be the number one thing. I think they’re going to be more mature about who they are as people, and hockey is still hockey and we are still going to work on how were going to teach and the fundamental skills of the game are never going to go away, those things go along right with it, but they’re mature enough to handle change quicker in the process, and when we discuss development situations that could positively impact them as a player. There is going to be a way faster curve of how they learn and how they apply.”
There are many exciting aspects that McCracken is looking forward to, but as he looks back on his time with the Tritons, he has nothing but gratitude for his staff, community and most of all his players. “The biggest thing I want to say is thank you. I feel a huge amount of gratitude towards the school, the administration for allowing me to be their coach for the last 17 years and build a hockey program. I think the school, the community, certainly myself and my coaching staff at Notre Dame would be really proud of it, but the thank you that I have is for the players, and what they have allowed me to do for the last 17 years and impact their lives as a coach… When you build successful teams, and you have the kind of success that we’ve had as an organization for the last 17 years, there are so many things that are such positive pieces. I am forever going to be a Notre Dame Academy Triton, I’ll be watching from afar, but I’m going to be very curious and pay close attention to how the players continue to have success that are currently in the program. I have a great relationship with many of them that are inside the program currently, so it is just gratitude, it was really enjoyable. I am not leaving from a place of unhappiness or leaving from a place of not having success, it is the opposite. I am leaving from a place of having success; an opportunity is born from success, and that’s where my next opportunity came, but these players have helped pave that way for me and I am incredibly grateful for them.”