There is no record of a DeLorean blasting through Wisconsin Dells in the past few days, but it is clear the Dells Ducks are moving Back to the Future.
The team is moving into its 10th Anniversary season this fall with a couple of throwbacks to its first campaign back in the fold.
Shaun Falzone, Head Coach of the Ducks in its first season of 2011-12, has gone on to establish himself as a coach and evaluator of talent at every level from youth hockey to the College club ranks, where he has enjoyed a great deal of success coaching teams that have reached and won National Championships.
Recently, Falzone announced his return to the team as a partner with the man that first hired him, John Schwarz.
“I am the new coach and I am one of the new owners,” said Falzone, adding, “John and I are going to work together. I am going to come back as a coach and bring the team back to its original roots.”
Schwarz confirmed the move, adding while they are working as partners for the upcoming season, the ultimate goal is for Falzone to take over the team financially, allowing the new owner a chance to take the reins himself while freeing up Schwarz, who also is the outright owner of the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Chicago Cougars while sharing ownership in a couple other USPHL teams.
Falzone attended a game late in the season and felt that, despite the team’s struggles in a nine-win season, there was some talent on the young team.
“Right now, my goal is to get in touch with all the Ducks players that were there this year and have discussions with them, where they are at, what their future plans are,” said Falzone. “At the same time, there are a lot of kids here in Texas that don’t get the opportunity, so it gives me a chance to help some of those players.”
Falzone has shown himself to be a good recruiter. On the original Ducks team which was put together in the weeks between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 regular seasons, he used his contacts, then in Illinois to put together an immediately competitive team which included two of the top high school players from the previous season, Aiden Verbeke and Tyler Pecka.
Falzone also announced another name from the past resurfacing as his assistant coach for the upcoming season. Anthony Rohde joined the Ducks in the second half of that inaugural campaign. A speedy and mobile forward, Rohde enjoyed a strong season with the Minnesota Owls as well, where Falzone was operating as a scout. He also played under Falzone at Aurora University and Falzone said he has become a top-notch skating instructor in Texas where both currently reside.
“Rohde’s been with me the past few years in Texas. He’s been running the Turcotte Camps in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois,” said Falzone, adding his former forward also ran a camp in Illinois with Chris Chelios, Coach/Director of the Midget Program for the Naperville Sabres.
“He wanted to get into coaching, so he came to Texas with me. He’s been doing well, talent-wise and experience-wise and plus, having one of my former players join me as a coach is even more fun.”
The two obviously have a great chemistry at this point and Falzone said he ultimately plans to hand the coaching reins to Rohde. But he already trusts and respects his former player and trusts him to take charge behind the bench or run practices by himself, knowing they share the same philosophies.
Rohde is excited to come back to Wisconsin and help his former coach and now good friend.
“I am looking forward to it, being in Wisconsin and around the junior team,” said Rohde.
“After I graduated, I had to stop playing hockey because I ended up getting post-concussion syndrome,” said Rohde. “But since the season I played with the Owls, I’ve was doing stickhandling camps in Minnesota and working for Chris Chelios on his skating camps in Illinois and (Falzone) said ‘I need help down here with skills, do you want to come.’ I had just graduated, so (I said) ‘yes, I’ll come down.’”
Rohde has worked in hockey since being forced to give up the game himself. His first non-hockey job started in January when he was hired as a Special Ed Teacher at a school in Texas.
Rohde is looking forward to putting his skills toward helping a specific team and he is comfortable he and Falzone will work well together.
“Since I’ve known Shaun for so long, he trusts me to do whatever I need to do to help out with skills and player development, so he really wants me to work with the players on developing their skills,” said Rohde adding he brings some unique methods of teaching learned from working closely with Chelios.
Rounding out the coaching staff will be Brian Guevara, owner of North American Goalie Schools. Guevara, a Chicago-area resident will not be a full-time coach, but the goaltenders will get his full attention on a regular basis.
The recent restrictions due to health concerns will likely erase at least the early Showcase events which are the prime area for recruiting. The annual WIAA Seniors tournament was one of the victims and always a popular spot for recruiting. However, Falzone has a bit of a different system and is confident he will have no trouble getting a competitive team on the ice by Labor Day.
“I’m not really a guy who goes to a lot of showcases to find players,” said Falzone. “I go out and find them ahead of time.”
Falzone’s track record is solid in finding players and the promise of getting some more offensive talent in the fold must be exciting to the Ducks’ fanbase, but the new owner said he is looking for mental as well as physical ability.
“The goal is to build a team with the right attitude,” said Falzone. “You have to have the right attitude and that’s the biggest part I am looking for at the moment,” said Falzone who has carved out a reputation in Texas for his ability to help players get to the next level. Whether or not that is with the Ducks or not, he will still work to help the young players from his new home.
In that first season, Falzone built a team that possessed both skills and speed as well as toughness, which came in handy in the bruising league they played in at the time. Times have changed, but the physical style will always be a part of a Falzone team’s identity.
“I think we’ll be a quick, physical team. We’ll get some size on the back end and up front a bit, but you’re going to have to work hard to catch these guys.”
Over the coming weeks, Falzone and Schwarz will work together to get the framework of the 2020-21 Ducks put together. Check out the team’s website, www.dellsducks.net or on social networking for all the latest updates as Falzone puts the Dells Ducks 2.0 together.