Jack Brodt didn’t have to cast a very wide net to find a co-coach for the Minnesota Whitecaps. All he had to do was ask his next-door neighbor.
The Whitecaps will announce Thursday that Ronda (Curtin) Engelhardt will share head coaching duties with Brodt during the team’s initial season in the National Women’s Hockey League.
The former Gophers defenseman was an original member of the Whitecaps, which Brodt co-founded in 2004, and is a longtime teammate and friend of Brodt’s daughter Winny. Another alumna of the Gophers and Whitecaps, Laura Slominski, will join the team as an assistant coach.
The announcement comes about seven weeks after the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Robb Stauber, head coach of the U.S. women’s team that won an Olympic gold medal in February, would be co-coach of the Whitecaps with his wife, Shivaun.
Several other media outlets picked up that report, in which Stauber discussed his plans for the team. But all contracts must be filed with the NWHL, and no paperwork ever was submitted.
Brodt said while Stauber was interested, “neither party made a 100 percent commitment.’’
Robb Stauber said Monday via text message that he and his wife “decided not to take the job.’’
Engelhardt has been the head coach at Breck for the past five years and coached the Mustangs to the Class 1A title in February.
The winner of Minnesota’s Ms. Hockey award in 1999, the Roseville High School graduate was a two-time All-America with the Gophers and was twice named the WCHA’s defensive player of the year. After playing for Jack Brodt as a mite and with the Whitecaps, Engelhardt is eager to guide the team into a new era alongside the man who has coached it since its inception.
“I remember sitting at the Brodt’s table when the Whitecaps were first an idea,” said Engelhardt, who played for the Whitecaps from 2004-06. “It’s amazing how much it’s grown because of Jack’s commitment for 14 years. It’s an honor to be part of it now. We have a vision of building this team into something great.’’
While Engelhardt said the Whitecaps will reflect Brodt’s passion for the game, Brodt expects the team to benefit from her ability to connect with players. Engelhardt is the only woman serving as a head coach in the NWHL, and she took the job because she believes it is important to have more female leaders in the sport. Engelhardt also coached the two Olympians who have signed with the Whitecaps—former Gophers Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein—when they were young.
Brodt, also the general manager, said about 60 players are interested in joining the Whitecaps. The team will have a roster of 25 paid players for NWHL games, and he plans to carry another five to 10 unpaid members to play in exhibition games against college teams. Brodt said the Whitecaps will play a “substantial’’ schedule of games against Division I college opponents in addition to a 16-game league schedule.
The Whitecaps will open their nonleague schedule Sept. 22 at Minnesota Duluth, with the NWHL season beginning Oct. 6 against the Metropolitan Riveters at TRIA Rink in St. Paul.
Brodt said the roster should be finalized by mid-August, with training camp beginning in September.