Only two years ago, Daniel Tetrault was suiting up and on the ice for the Rapid City Rush.
In October, he'll be donning a different kind of suit for the Rush.
Tetrault was introduced as the third head coach in franchise history Thursday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center during a news conference. The 37-year-old retired from hockey after the 2014-15 season and went behind the bench as an assistant coach to Mark DeSantis.
The move was described as following what appears to be a league-wide trend of hiring young coaches, according to Rush majority owner Scott Mueller.
This season's Kelly Cup final between the Colorado Eagles and the South Carolina Stingrays featured two coaches who were in their first season, Aaron Schneekloth from Colorado and Ryan Warsofsky for South Carolina.
"I like the idea of the young coaches," Mueller said. "I think they have better contact with the players, he's been a captain everywhere he's been, he's won three championships, he loves Rapid City, it seemed like a perfect fit."
This is also the third time in franchise history the Rush have hired someone from within the organization, something Mueller didn't think would happen when the process started.
"I didn’t think we would hire in-house this time, I really didn’t," he said. "Until we got to the interview process and he had the best story. We felt the most comfortable with him. I had no plans, to tell you the truth, of hiring in house but I would have hired him over anyone else."
For Tetrault, his lack of experience isn't a burden, it's a positive. He said his ability to relate with the players will be one of his strongest attributes as the new man in charge of the Rush.
"I believe I know how to manage and relate to these guys," he said. "I'm a fired up guy, I'm a passionate guy and I'm going to have guys who have that same fire and desire.
"I'm going to hold guys accountable. If they don't do their jobs I'll tell them the truth, that's what they want. They want the honest truth and they're going to get it from me."
Tetrault's one year of experience as an assistant coach was a concern at the start of the hiring process, according to Mueller. It was the exit interviews with many of the players after the season was over that helped sell Tetrault to Mueller.
"I was (concerned about inexperience) at first, I really was," Mueller said. "What I liked was his communication with the players. We talked to a lot of the players at the end of the season and every one of them had so much respect for him. It was really quite alarming and that was a big part of the decision."
Forward Anthony Collins, who has played for and against Tetrault, said that respect comes from seeing how competitive the man they call "Tetsy" can be.
"I’ve played against him and I know what kind of a fierce competitor he was as a player, that translates into any work field," he said. "Guys saw that in the role he took last year as an assistant coach, he took it seriously and you can tell he really wants to better the guys in the dressing room and help guys achieve their goals."
Defensemen and captain Riley Weselowski wasn't surprised the Rush went with a younger coach. He said he knew if Tetrault could just get an interview he'd have a shot at the job.
"I wasn’t surprised that they hired Tetsy," he said. "I’ve gotten to know Tetsy over the years and I know what he brings to the table, I know that his knowledge of the game, his connections throughout the game, I knew that if he were to get into an interview process he would have a good opportunity to be a leading candidate."
Tetrault is charged with fixing a team that went 26-38-8-0, missed the playoffs for the second straight season and finished in last place in the mountain division.
He admitted that last season the locker room wasn't as close as he would have liked.
He said he wants to create a locker room where cliques aren't tolerated, and neither are losses.
"We had a lack of a leadership, I’m going to bring in leaders that have won before," he said. "That’ll make a big difference. It’ll be a tight knit group, we’re going to do a lot of stuff on and off the ice. Everyone is going to challenge each other to be better every day, and I truly believe that’s what makes championship teams."
He said he wasn't surprised that the Rush put their faith in him. He knows what he can do.
"I truly believe in my abilities to bring this club back to its winning ways," he said. "I’ve got a lot of (playing) experience, I’ve got a lot of connections in the hockey world, I’m only two years removed from the game, I had good experience last year as an assistant and I truly believe I know what it takes to win. I’ve won before and I’m ready to get these guys prepared to be winners, and to have that culture here in Rapid City."
There is a big difference between being an assistant coach and being a head coach, as Rush general manager Joe Ferras knows. Ferras was the first Rush coach and said the demand on the head coach is much greater than his assistants.
Still, he believes Tetrault is ready for the challenge.
"The final decision is on you. Now this is his hockey club, he's going to be making all of those decisions on player movement, player signings," he said. "Now the pressure starts but as a hockey person you want to relish that opportunity, and I think Danny is going to relish that, he's been successful as a player in pressure situations and now this is the natural progression in his career."
For Tetrault, who was informed he was being hired last Friday, the adjustment has already begun.
He was forced to take over as head coach last season when DeSantis was suspended for throwing a water bottle at an official during a game last season.
"There’s a lot more phone calls and paper work," he joked. "It’ll be adjustments throughout the game sometimes. I took over the bench a couple of times last year and that was great experience. You have to be on the ball, that’s for sure, and you have to be involved on the ice. That’ll be one of the adjustments but I’m not afraid, I’m ready to take on the challenge."
Last season the Rush had a tendency to let late leads slip away, and to lose one-goal games. Tetrault said he is determined to not let that happen again.
"I want guys to go through their checks at all times, we’re going to be a good fore checking team," he said. "I want guys going to the net, not standing beside the goalie, I want guys right in front of the goalies eyes that’ll pay the price to score a goal, and if they’re not going to do that I’ll find someone who will. We’ve got to win those 2-1, 3-2 games we didn’t win those last year and it’s going to happen this year."