After five years of defending the blue line, former Polar Bears captain Blake Johnson is about to take on his biggest leadership role for SRJC yet: as head coach for the 2015-16 season.
General Manager Tom Billeter named Johnson the official head coach for the upcoming season after the departure of former coach Mike Kovanis. Kovanis, who has decided to pursue other hockey opportunities, led the Polar Bears to two Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association titles in his two years on SRJC’s bench.
“We are very thankful for Mike Kovanis and the time he donated to help grow our program and our players,” Billeter said. “We wish Mike the best as he pursues his hockey career outside of our club."
Johnson’s appointment comes four months after he retired from the ice. As an original member of the club since rebranding in 2009, Johnson was a crucial member of a team that saw three-consecutive PCHA championships and three American Collegiate Hockey Association Regional Tournament appearances in five years.
“I am really excited for this opportunity,” said Johnson, who has never coached at this level before. “This allows me to give back to the program and the club that helped me mature as a person and as a player. It is the least I can do to help a program that gave me so much.”
When the previous season ended in February 2015, the club knew it wanted Johnson to join the SRJC staff; the opportunity to lead the club was essentially a no-brainer.
“He has a very high hockey IQ and is an excellent motivator, a perfect combination for a college-level head coach,” Billeter said. “The best attribute he will provide to our program, in my opinion, is that he is incredibly passionate about SRJC Hockey. That passionate attitude will inevitably help with our program's growth."
Johnson will begin his reign as head coach of the SRJC Hockey team Sept. 25 as the Polar Bears open the season against UC Berkeley at Snoopy’s Home Ice.