DALLAS, Texas -- University of North Dakota head coach Brad Berry is very familiar with the Dallas area.
Berry, an NHL defenseman after his three-year career at North Dakota, was part of the first Dallas Stars team in the 1993-94 season and has seen the growth of hockey in Dallas in his travels since then.
"There’s a lot going on and hockey’s really taken off here in Dallas,” said Berry. “It’s really expanded in youth hockey and there's buzz around there. It’s amazing, the evolution. When I came back here in 2012 as an assistant with Columbus, you could really see the growth. Even in the six years since, it has continued to boomed.
"With [Columbus defenseman] Seth Jones coming out of the programs here and the youth hockey programs now, it’s been an amazing transition. When we came down here in 1993, they didn’t know much about hockey -- it was all Cowboys football, which it still is. But the big point with the Stars growing..it’s because they’ve won a Stanley Cup and continue to grow off of that.”
Berry had another reason to be excited about being in Dallas and that’s with the players he has coming into the Fighting Hawks' program for next season being picked at the 2018 NHL Draft being held here in Dallas. Of the incoming freshmen, four were selected in the draft with Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th) and Jonny Tychonick (48th) both heading to Ottawa, Jasper Weatherby being picked 102nd by San Jose, and Gavin Hain going to Philadelphia at the 174th pick.
“We hope they get picked, but if they don’t, they’ll be free agents,” said Berry. “And we’ve had great free agents to come through North Dakota, Troy Stecher and Drake Caggiula to name two. They’ll work hard to get where they want to go.”
Berry continued: “That’s the culture we want to provide at North Dakota. The biggest thing is to organize the education and help them attain every goal they have since they were a little kid. We provide them with facilities to nutrition to information to coaching. Whatever they want, we give them and it’s up to them to use that moving forward.”
Berry had nothing but praise for Bernard-Docker, who went in the first round to Ottawa, mentioning the work that he put into getting vaulted into the first round.
“It’s pretty exciting for him. He’s put the time and effort on what he’s wanted to accomplish,” said Berry. “There’s a lot of goals in front of him. Last night was a huge accolade for him. We’ve texted back and forth and said how proud we are of him, but it’s been a whirlwind for him.”
But it’s important for Berry to preach the message of the path starting now for the players. While some of the Fighting Hawks may have been selected high or not selected at all, the message going forward is the same.
“We always tell our players, whether you're No. 1 overall or the last pick of the 12th round, it’s only a measurement of a point in time,” noted Berry. “It’s what you do after to get to where you want to go. Now the work starts. I think Bernard-Docker said it perfectly that it doesn’t guarantee you anything. You love to have kids coming into your culture that believe that. It’s important for them to get some education, to get to train with their future teammates, and to get to bond with guys they’ll play with in the next few months.”