‘Special and unique’ Rampage coaches create family-like culture
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Whether one is building a hockey team or developing a hockey player, it’s a process.
It’s no different with building a club, but the process – particularly the teaching part – is something the Colorado Rampage embraces.
“A school is good because they have a reputation for having good teachers,” said Andrew Sherman, the club’s 18U AAA coach and owner of Colorado Sports Center. “We have a growth mindset, not a fix mindset. That’s what makes our group of coaches special and unique.”
The Rampage has incrementally expanded its staff to the point it boasts an impressive roster of veteran and young coaches.
Al Pedersen, who coordinates the Mite, house and “Learn To Play Hockey” programs, was a longtime pro defenseman who spent eight seasons in the NHL and has coached in the minors.
“Al gives families and kids an incredible first experience with the game that creates trust quickly,” Sherman said. “He lets these families and kids know he cares.”
Pat Bingham, who coaches the Midget 16U team and assists on the 18U team, has a lengthy playing (11 years major junior and pro) and coaching resume (14 years pro). Bantam 13U and 14U coach Shawn Kurulak played collegiately at the University of Denver, spent nine years as a Division I assistant and several more as a youth hockey coach and administrator.
“Pat could have a job anywhere he wants, but he wants to be here,” Sherman said. “Like Pat, Shawn could coach anywhere with his connections.”
Joe Stanczyk, who is the Squirt coordinator, has spent a quarter of a century coaching at national, junior and youth levels. District high school coach Hal Jordan is a retired U.S. Air Force officer with decades of youth coaching experience.
The staff also includes younger coaches, such as Pee Wee coordinator and junior coach J.J. Crew, who played at Western Michigan University and coached in juniors; Kevin LaPointe, a former junior coach with several seasons of youth experience; Bantam coordinator and 16U American coach Joey Carroll, who built a successful program in New Mexico, and Andy Newton, Colin Martel and Kevin Jones. In addition, the Rampage has received big contributions from goalie coaches Matt Zaba, a former Colorado College netminder who now coaches CC’s goalies as well, and Riese Niehaus.
“All of these guys give more than they take,” Sherman said. “They do this because they care.”
Kurulak saw his pro playing career end after one game because of an injury, but hockey was in his blood.
“It was the thing I enjoyed and loved the most. Coaching drew me in,” he said.
His stops included DU, Bemidji State University, the U.S. Military Academy and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as the United States Hockey League, before returning to Colorado for a variety of roles in youth hockey.
“Sherm was my agent and I know the type of person he is, the high character he has,” Kurulak said. “I know what Sherm is trying to do – offer high-level hockey for kids in Colorado. Look at the staff he’s built – I love working with these guys because we share that goal.”
The construction of the Rampage, a USA Hockey ADM model association, hasn’t happened overnight.
“I bought the rink in 2012 and it’s taken us a while to get to this point,” Sherman said. “To provide a higher level of training, you have to populate the organization with good teachers and good people.”
One challenge the club faces, particularly in light of its peers in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, is the relatively small population base it draws from in the Monument-Colorado Springs region.
“It is a bit of a tough spot, but at the same time, it’s a great spot – we have great facilities and all the resources we need,” Kurulak said. “Andrew brings high integrity to everything he does, which is why he’s been successful in business and in hockey.
“We want to create that culture where players and families take care of each other.”
Photo/Members of the Colorado Rampage coaching staff (from left to right: Shawn Kurulak, Joe Stanczyk, Colin Martel, J.J. Crew, Kevin Jones, Kevin LaPointe, Joey Carroll and Riese Niehaus) take pride in being on the same page when it comes to building a successful youth hockey organization.
— Chris Bayee