No one should be surprised that Tyler Walsh is pursuing a hockey coaching career.
After all, the University of Maine graduate is the grandson of USA Hockey Hall of Famer Ron Mason, the second winningest coach in college hockey history with 924 victories, and the oldest son of the late Shawn Walsh, who is 34th in that category as a result of his 399-215-44 record in 17 years at Maine.
Tyler Walsh was named an intern assistant coach for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 team earlier this week under head coach Danton Cole, who played for his grandfather at Michigan State.
He will move up with Cole to coach the Under-18 team in 2015-16.
Walsh spent three seasons as a jack-of-all-trades/manager/video coordinator for the Maine hockey program and also was the undergraduate assistant his senior year before becoming the volunteer director of hockey operations for Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, last season.
“It happened so fast. I’m pretty excited. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Walsh, whose position with USA Hockey is a paying one.
“Coaching has been my passion from day one,” said the 23-year-old Walsh, who transferred to Maine after two years at Michigan State. “I’ve been around it my whole life. It’s like going into the family business. I always knew I would get into coaching.”
Shawn Walsh died in 2001 from complications stemming from kidney cancer.
Tyler Walsh wore several hats at Canisius. He was in charge of the team’s video, including the scouting reports on opponents and postgame video breakdowns; he handled travel arrangements; and he became part of the coaching staff after volunteer director of player personnel Adam Mair left in December to coach at the HarborCenter Academy of Hockey in Buffalo.
“It was a great experience,” said Walsh. “Adam has a great hockey mind as does (Canisius head coach) Dave Smith. I gave myself a timeline and last year was another step in the right direction. It really worked out well.”
Walsh said another of his duties was being able to help out in the recruiting process after the season.
“I was able to round myself out,” said Walsh. “When I was growing up, I never had enough respect for what people in this (hockey operations) position have to do. It’s not necessarily tough work but it requires a lot of time so you have to learn to manage your time.”
Canisius went 17-21-3 but reached the Atlantic Hockey championship game where the Griffs lost to Robert Morris 7-4.
Walsh said he was able to sustain himself financially by dipping into his savings and getting some help from his family.
“He is a machine,” said Smith. “He is self-motivated. He is driven. He has a lot of enthusiasm and energy. He was always willing to help out no matter what needed to be done. He brought great insight to our program. He has the genetic path to success. He has the confidence and swagger of his father and grandfather. He has a bright future in coaching.”
“It’s nice to have the bloodlines Tyler has but you still have to stand on your own two feet and do the work, and he did some great stuff at Maine and Canisius,” said Cole. “Coaching requires a lot of work and sacrifice and he has shown that. He has a passion for it. We were all really impressed with him. We’re happy to have him on board.”
Former University of Maine assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Dan Kerluke said he saw a lot of Shawn Walsh in Tyler. Kerluke played for the late coach.
“He has the fire in his belly for it like his dad. He has the passion to want to teach kids and help them learn how to make themselves better, off the ice as well as on the ice,” said Kerluke. “He was a tireless worker. He spent so much time soaking everything in that he became very knowledgeable about the game.”
Kerluke said Walsh had several duties at Maine but his video work enabled him to “mature and learn about the game very quickly.”
The younger Walsh eventually wound up spending time with the coaches during their strategy sessions.
“We valued his opinion. He had a very good perspective on the game and he would put in his two cents worth. He became part of the coaching staff,” said Kerluke.
Kerluke also noted how determined he was.
During his senior year, Walsh had a variety of debilitating medical conditions and lost a lot of weight.
Even though the coaching staff urged him to take care of his health and not to worry about his hockey responsibilities, Walsh still contributed as much as he could and earned his degree in business administration.
“It was amazing what he did despite being as sick as he was. People don’t realize how sick he really was,” said Kerluke. “But he wanted to be part of the team and help the team improve and win games. It was amazing how passionate he was even in his darkest moments.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Walsh, who was hospitalized periodically but had three months of hospital-free time that he spent working for the program.
Walsh, who said he is completely healthy now, said his three years at Maine were “invaluable.”
“Coach (Tim) Whitehead took me under his wing. It was one of the great experiences of my life,” said Walsh.
He is looking forward to working with Cole and eventually would like to become a college head coach.
“I love the college game and the ins and outs of it,” said Walsh, who will begin his new job next month.
Walsh will live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a one-hour drive away from his mother Tracey and his younger brother Travis, who is a defenseman at Michigan State.
His half-brother, Sean Michael, lives in Scarborough.