NMU parts ways with longtime head hockey coach Walt Kyle

Earlier this month, the Northern Michigan University men’s hockey program took a step in a very different direction and announced it was parting ways with longtime coach, Walt Kyle.

NMU decided it wouldn’t renew Kyle’s contract, which expires June 30.

Kyle took over at the helm in 2002 to replace Rick Comley, the program’s only other head coach since it began.

He was assistant coach under Comley during the Wildcats’ national championship season in 1991, and, after transferring from Boston College, played two seasons on NMU’s squad when they made it to the Frozen Four in 1980 and 1981.

His first four seasons as head coach of the Wildcats went well, ending each year with at least 21 wins. But in more recent years, it’s been a struggle.

When it comes to athletics, hockey is arguably NMU’s flagship program. It produces professional players and historically draws a large crowd to watch the games.

But even in a hockey-loving town like Marquette, attendance at NMU’s games dramatically dropped. And similar to that dropping number of attendees, the Wildcats’ total win-to-loss ratio has been on the decline, as well, with six of the last seven seasons coming to a close with fewer wins than losses.

Now, let’s be clear, there are many factors contributing to why a team may not perform well, and certainly the blame cannot rest squarely on Kyle’s shoulders.

But a coach needs to produce results, and, unfortunately, coaches are judged on the number of wins and losses they have accumulated.

We wish Walt Kyle well in whatever he chooses to do after his time at NMU runs out, but sometimes all a program needs to rebound is some fresh blood, and new energy or perspective.

Here’s to hoping that’s the case with the NMU Wildcats.