As he earned his degree at Augustana, Blaine Gusdal played four seasons for the Vikings from 1986-1990. Three-quarters of the team lived in residence their first year in ’86-‘87 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 four of the best years of my life.”
Former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Johnston was then in his last year of coaching the Vikings in ’86-‘87 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 and recruited players with good character and then he focused on not only creating good hockey players but good people. He also focused on his players being accountable as solid all-around students and good athletes. “I already knew that I wanted to coach,” Blaine says, “so I soaked up as much as I could from coaches like Mike.”
Blaine says there are three keys to good coaching: preparation of the coach and his staff, 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 study sports psychology at the University of Saskatchewan for a year and was then hired to coach in the SJHL with North Battleford in 1992. He remembers visiting with other Augustana alumni and 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 and be the head coach of the Vikings.
In 2008, Blaine’s hockey dream came true.
“Coaching at Augustana is a perfect fit for my family,” Blaine explains. “I enjoy being on campus and I absolutely love spending time at the rink each day. I’m passionate about my work, and I’ll often be at the arena late at night doing whatever needs to be done. Augustana is a great fit because I’m very family-oriented and the ACAC schedule allows me to spend 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 makeup, more than any other hockey experience I’ve had. I’m a Viking alumni first and foremost.”