Wednesday, 7.13.2016 / 9:54 am CT
By Alex von Keudell
Wildcats Head Coach and 2016 NAHL Coach of the Year John LaFontaine has been hired as Head Coach of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League. He will replace Todd Krygier after three years in Muskegon.
“It’s sincerely tough to leave Wichita Falls,” LaFontaine said. “I’ve never met more friendly people. We had such a loyal fan base that’s been growing and is on the right track. The organization is in great hands, and I know in my heart that the remaining staff will continue to lead the Wildcats down that path. At the same time, I'm ecstatic and excited to be going back to Michigan and the challenge of joining the USHL.”
LaFontaine returns to his home state to be closer to family and to coach in the top junior hockey league in the United States. While the feeling may be bitter among the Wildcats fan base, his decision was ultimately one he had to make.
The bench boss led the Wildcats to their two most successful seasons in franchise history in the two years the team was under his command. In 2014-2015, his team led the league in goals and power play percentage, and reached a franchise-high 39 regular season wins.
The following season under his watch was even more impressive. He and the Wildcats shattered their previous record, racking up 44 victories and making their deepest-ever playoff run. His successes in turning the franchise around did not go unnoticed, as he was named the 2016 NAHL Coach of the Year.
Under his watch, the Wildcats excelled on both sides of the puck. LaFontaine integrated a run-and-gun system in which his players used their creativity and puck possession to dominate the game. Off the ice, he established a unique culture right off the bat. His players had a full understanding that playing hockey came second to showing respect and humility. His virtues trickled down to his team and laid the groundwork for creating a pleasant group to be around.
"Finding a new head coach is quick on our list," Wildcats Owner Roy Davoult said. "We're going to try to find someone who can carry out John's tradition of winning, as well as develop our players and build their character."
LaFontaine will be at the Wildcats' second main camp in Wichita Falls from July 28-31. The search for a new head coach is currently underway.