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CL fills hockey coaching vacancy with Gibson

After Josh Liebenow made his stop in Chisago Lakes a brief one, a familiar face will be stepping in looking to bring stability to the Wildcat hockey program. Paul Gibson, who previously served as an assistant coach under Corey McKinnon, will be taking over the reins as boys hockey head coach. If the Gibson name is familiar, perhaps it’s because Paul’s brother Mark Gibson has been an assistant coach for the CL girls hockey program under head coach Jason Mahlen. Gibson, who will be the third coach in three years for the Wildcat boys, was hired out of a half dozen applicants, and his resume includes a multitude of previous hockey jobs. Gibson grew up in St. Mary’s Point near Lakeland, MN. “As kids, we lived three blocks from the rink and there was nothing else to do in the 70s,” he recalled. “All we did was play hockey. We’d get there at 8 a.m. and play until 10 p.m. Nobody wanted to leave at the end, either. There was definitely some tears shed every time someone’s parents would come to pick them up. We were just rink rats.” He played for Andre Beaulieu at Stillwater High School, and then went on to play for a year at Northern Michigan University. He transferred to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he played hockey for two years.

Gibson was part of the Division III national championship Falcons team at UWRF in 1988. After his playing career was over, Gibson went on to coach at summer clinics with his former coach Beaulieu. In 1991, an old friend was coaching at Hudson High School in Wisconsin and Gibson joined that staff for two years, helping the team to the state tournament one of them. Soon after, Gibson and his wife Kim moved to the Lindstrom area and he assumed he’d moved past coaching. But, as he got to know some of the local faces of hockey, Gibson began to get that itch again. In 2006, he spoke with McKinnon about getting involved in the program and he helped run some of the early captain’s practices that year. Eventually, Gibson came on the staff as a volunteer coach, but McKinnon quickly added him to the paid staff in 2007 to help develop players. In 2010, Gibson coached the Chisago Lakes bantam team to a fourth place finish at the state tournament, and in an ironic twist, most of those bantam guys will be sophomores and juniors this year as Gibson takes his position behind the Wildcat bench. In between his run as the bantam coach and now, Gibson has done some scouting for some junior teams and helped coach a few juniors teams also.

Last year, he helped coach the Twin Cities Steel, an expansion junior team that did better than many expected, finishing above .500. That led him to the Wildcats job. With an opening this season only two years removed from a school record 21 wins, Gibson saw a chance to not only continue doing what he loves, but doing it at a place where he can make a difference. “I took a look around Minnesota and realized that a lot of the successful big program have long-term coaches,” he said. “Having the same philosophies and strategy can help create a dominant program. If you’re constantly switching coaches, you just can’t get a program in place.” Gibson already said that this will be his final coaching job, and he wants it to last a long time. “Not only short term with a lot of my bantam players, but in the big picture, I want to make a difference at the school. I want to be a positive influence on the players. “A lot of coaches are looking to help the kids, but also help themselves move up. I have a resume already. I’m always about the players and making sure they are on the right track and concentrating on their academics and athletics.”

Gibson, who has a five-year-old son, Dain, just starting mites, calls Lindstrom home, and won’t have to take too much time getting to know everyone in the area. “Most people in the hockey community know me. They know who I am and what I’m about,” he said. He also added that he’s excited about the early support from first-year Activities Director Neil Fletcher. “I’ve already had a few chances to visit with Neil and I’m very impressed. We’re very lucky to have him up here, especially after the success the Blaine hockey team has had recently.” Fletcher, likewise, was excited about the hire. “Paul has a great hockey background and has been a coach in the community before,” the new AD said. “We wanted to get the program more connected in the school, and I think that Paul will help raise the bar high.” Gibson is excited to be a part of the program and to put his stamp on the Wildcats. “I’ve always been involved and studied the game of hockey,” he said. “It’s always been in my blood.”


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