Former Stampede coach Kevin Hartzell is back behind the bench, but not in the United States Hockey League – or even the United States.
Hartzell has entered the professional ranks as the coach for Lillehammer in the Norwegian GET-League, Norway’s county’s top level for hockey but similar in scope to the USHL. Lillehammer plays its home games in 3,194-seat Kristins Hall.
The Minnesota native and former Gopher standout was also up for the University of Alaska-Anchorage job that went to recent ECHL coach Matt Thomas, but Hartzell will enter the pro game rather than college.
“After going through the Alaska process, he felt that wasn’t the right fit for him,” said Gary Weckwerth, the managing partner of Sioux Falls Sports who hired Hartzell with the Herd.
“He leaves in early August, and he’s hoping to have an impact as far as bringing in some American players.”
Hartzell has already made his mark in that area, signing former Stampede standout Nick Dineen to skate for Lillehammer, which finished 23-20 last season and lost in the league quarterfinals.
“Happy to be part of (the team) for the upcoming season and to be playing for my old coach again,” tweeted Dineen, an all-star for KooKoo in the Finnish Tier 2 league last season. “Gonna be a great year.”