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Gamblers Associate Head Coach McCadden determined off the ice, too

McCadden relaxes after finishing the Lake Placid Ironman. Submitted photo

By Rich Palzewic

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – There’s more to Green Bay Gamblers Associate Head Coach Pat McCadden than being a successful hockey player and coach.

For McCadden, that comes in the form of seven letters: I-R-O-N-M-A-N.

Using the same grit and determination he portrayed on the ice, McCadden, who was promoted to associate head coach with the Gamblers before this season, recently completed his seventh Ironman triathlon — this one in Lake Placid, New York.

An Ironman consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running.

In McCadden’s latest Ironman, all this was done in 14 hours, 36 minutes.

“That was my slowest Ironman,” McCadden, who grew up in St. Louis, said. “I tweaked my back in early June, so I was undertrained a bit. From a course standpoint, Lake Placid was the most difficult — the bike portion was hilly.”

An Ironman consists of 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running.

Lake Placid is best known as the host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

“Of course, Lake Placid is home to the ‘Miracle on Ice’ (in 1980) when the United States beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey,” McCadden said. “The finish line was 100 yards from the rink.”

How it began

McCadden said he began thinking about Ironmans during his hockey-playing days.

“An Ironman takes a lot of grit and mental fortitude,” he said. “With the amount of training needed, you’d never be able to do one while playing hockey.”

McCadden said St. Norbert College (SNC) Coach Tim Coghlin, who completed Ironman Wisconsin in 2006, also gave him motivation.

“When I played at St. Norbert, Coach Coghlin talked to our team about his experience,” he said. “It sounded like fun, so when my playing days were done, I was all in.”

The details

Besides Lake Placid, McCadden completed Ironman Wisconsin in 2019, his own when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out his race plans in 2020, three in the summer of 2021 and Ironman Alaska in 2022.

“My first one was Wisconsin in 2019,” he said. “With my own, I mapped things out — I swam in a lake in Suamico and had buddies of mine help with the run and bike by going with me. My wife also helped on the support side of things.”

McCadden said he wasn’t sure what possessed him to sign up for three Ironmans in 2021.

“Maybe I was raring to go after COVID,” he laughed. “After Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) in June, I did an unofficial Ironman in Grand Rapids (Michigan Titanium) in August and then Wisconsin again later that year. That was a lot on the body and wallet — Ironmans are not cheap.”

McCadden said he and his wife turn his Ironman goals into vacations.

“Coeur d’Alene and Alaska were cool spots to vacation,” he said.

The training

McCadden said when training for an Ironman, he aims to do each discipline three times per week.

“I know I can’t seriously train until after the hockey season is complete,” he said. “I’ll start with 10 hours a week and then gradually move up to 15 or 16 hours per week during the height of my training. I’m not a professional by any means, but I do my best. A lot of it is early morning — get my training in and then go to work.”

McCadden said being a hockey coach is “almost perfect” for his training.

“Obviously, in the summer, it’s a little more relaxed for me — minus some camps and stuff we do,” he said. “In the winter during the height of the hockey season, I’m happy with getting 30 minutes on the Peleton (exercise bike) a few times per week.”

Of the three disciplines, McCadden said he’d rank swimming as his best, followed by running and biking.

“I did swim club as a kid and have always taken a liking to the water,” he said. “Later in my playing career, I incorporated swimming into my training to help my legs recover while still getting some cardio. You wouldn’t guess it from Lake Placid, but running is another strong point for me. I did the (Green Bay) Cellcom (Marathon) in 3 hours, 36 minutes, so I’m a decent runner. I’m not a bad biker, but I only have a basic road bike. Some people have these $10,000 tri bikes, so I’m behind the eight-ball already.”

Future Ironmans

When asked why he puts himself through the physical and mental strain of an Ironman, McCadden was quick to answer.

“I needed something to compete in when I finished playing hockey,” he said. “I love hockey and coaching, but coaching is not me competing on the ice — I teach the game, and the players do the rest.”

McCadden said he and his wife are already thinking about their next adventure.

“There are other Ironmans in North America, but like I said, it’s not all that cheap,” he said. “But, we justify that with, ‘This is our one vacation a year.’ I don’t plan on stopping now, but who knows what 10 years will bring.”

McCadden said he’d be lying if he didn’t think about doing the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii someday, but he knows he’ll never qualify based on time.

“In any Ironman branded event, you can qualify for the World Championship in Hawaii if your time is fast enough,” he said. “I know I’ll never get there based on time. Even in my best Ironman, I was probably still two hours away from qualifying.”

Though he won’t ever qualify for the World Championship based on time, McCadden said that doesn’t mean he can’t ever do Hawaii.

Green Bay Gamblers Associate Head Coach Pat McCadden crosses the finish line on July 23 at the Lake Placid Ironman in New York. McCadden, who played hockey for both Jon Cooper and Tim Coghlin, finished in 14 hours, 36 minutes.

“There’s something called the Legacy Program,” he said. “Among other requirements, you have to complete 12 sanctioned Ironmans to qualify for Hawaii.”

Of his seven completed Ironmans, McCadden said five were sanctioned, but he only gets credit for four because the rules were changed.

“You can’t double up in a year anymore,” he said. “People were doing four or five a summer to get to that magic number of 12. They had to change the rules because so many people were doing that. It basically boils down to one Ironman per year. I’d love to get there, but at the end of the day, I have a career to keep in mind.”

Successful hockey career

McCadden also had success on the ice.

He served as team captain under Jon Cooper — now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning — in 2010 when the Gamblers won the Clark Cup.

“I’ll never forget Game 5 (of the Clark Cup Championship at the Resch Center in Green Bay),” McCadden said. “It was smart marketing on their part to fill the house with $5 tickets.”

A few years later, McCadden helped SNC win the NCAA Division III National Championship in 2014.

McCadden then played three professional seasons between the SPHL and ECHL, finishing his professional career with the Atlanta Gladiators.

McCadden said both Cooper and Coghlin are “great coaches.”

“They’re two of the best,” he said. “Cooper is great at making everybody feel a part of the team, and that makes everybody want to go through a wall together. He gets a little extra out of players — he’s elite at that. That’s why he’s had so much success in the NHL. He’s great at managing a group and getting what he can out of every player.”

Under Coghlin’s tutelage, SNC has won five NCAA Division III National Championships.

“Coach Coghlin expects your best every time you step on the ice — anything less isn’t good enough,” McCadden laughed. “There are a lot of similarities with Cooper — he also gets the most out of his players. Coghlin cares for his players, so that makes you want to do your best for him and the team.”

Before his time with the Gamblers, McCadden spent five seasons with Lawrence University where he served as the associate head coach.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I want to be a head coach someday,” McCadden said. “You take all your experiences as a player and coach, and that turns you into who you are as a coach. I’ve had some great experiences under some great coaches.”

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