As he earned his degree at Augustana, Blaine Gusdal played four seasons for the Vikings. Three quarters of the team lived in residence and they formed a tight-knit group. “We were a small fraternity,” he said, “and after graduation, some of the guys from the team were in my wedding party. They were the four best years of my life.”
Former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Johnston was then in his last year of coaching for the Vikings, and he was a role model for Blaine. Blaine already knew he wanted to be a coach, and he saw many qualities in Mike Johnson that he wanted to emulate: he was passionate, a successful communicator, and well prepared. He chose players with good characters, and then he focused on not only creating good hockey players, but good people. He also focussed on his players being accountable as good all-around students and good athletes. “I already knew that I wanted to coach,” Blaine says, “so I soaked up as much as a could from Mike.”
Blaine says there are three keys to good coaching: preparation of the coach, preparation of the players, and holding players accountable for their performance and the results of the game.
After he graduated from Augustana, Blaine went on to complete a Master of Arts in sports psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, and then was hired to coach the WHL team in North Battleford. He remembers sitting with other Augustana alumni, talking about their dreams for their careers. He said that if he could coach any team he wanted, he would love to go back to Augustana be the head coach of the Vikings.
In 2008, Blaine’s dream came true.
“Coaching at Augustana is a perfect fit for my family,” Blaine explains. “I absolutely love being on campus, and I love spending time at the arena each day. I’m passionate about my work, and I’ll often be at the arena until 2 a.m. doing what needs to be done. Augustana is a good fit because I’m very family-oriented, and the ACAC program allows me to spend lots of time with my wife and be there for my kids as they grow up. Plus,” he says with a smile, “I get to coach a terrific team of players.”
For a hockey coach, this is a rare and special lifestyle.
“I am Viking red through and through,” Blaine admits. “Being a Viking is part of my whole make up, more than any other hockey experience I’ve had. I’m a Viking alumni first and foremost.”