Natalie Darwitz has three months to go before her and husband Chris Arseneau become parents. They have decided to wait until the blessed day to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl.
“Either way, I’m guessing we’re going to have a hockey player,’’ she said.
Darwitz was the three-time Olympian in 2002, 2006 and 2010, and the three-time All-America for the Gophers. She has spent the last four winters as the girls coach at Lakeville South.
A month ago, Hamline athletic director Jason Verdugo said he was working on a hire that could be worth a headline, but he would offer no hint as to the identity – including the sport in question.
On Monday, Hamline and Verdugo were able to make the announcement: Darwitz had accepted the task of turning around a Hamline program with a tradition of finishing near the bottom of the MIAC.
The Pipers finished 6-17-2 this winter, and it was clear that change was forthcoming. Steve DeBus resigned, and Verdugo went to work on trying to convince Darwitz to leave a job at a large suburban school with excellent facilities and move to Hamline.
“Jason has a very aggressive attitude about building Hamline athletics,’’ Darwitz said. “I like people like that.’’
Darwitz was only paid as a coach at Lakeville South. She took South to the state Class AA tournament for the first time this season. The Cougars finished 24-6-1.
“I had a great time coaching at South, but when it comes to time spent, high school coaches make a negative 10 cents an hour,’’ Darwitz said. “With the baby on the way, Hamline was a perfect fit. There’s a real salary and benefits.
“Hopefully we can change the perception of women’s hockey at Hamline … to make it a place that more women consider when they are looking at the MIAC to play hockey.’’
Cory Laylin, another former Gophers standout, was hired by Verdugo a year ago. He was able to do a quick fix with Hamline hockey by recruiting junior players. The Pipers made an upset run through the MIAC playoffs and reached the NCAA Division III national tournament.
“I’m not sure what our full personnel situation is for next season,’’ Darwitz said. “We don’t have junior leagues to go to in women’s hockey, so we’ll do the best we can, and start working on the future.’’
Darwitz will face the same drawback as Laylin in facilities:
The Pipers play home games at Oscar Johnson Arena. It’s near the campus, but might have fewer amenities than any arena in the country that houses college hockey.
The locker room for the Hamline men’s team is a construction trailer. Darwitz was asked if that’s also the situation with the women’s team?
“I think we have our own construction trailer,’’ she said. “If we share the same trailer, we’re going to get to know the men’s team real well.
“Too well, in fact.’’