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July 26, 2013

Barker gets first shot at head-coaching gig with ND Prep hockey team

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

Brian Barker

PONTIAC — He’s waited in the wings for years, crafting his skill and bolstering his repertoire.

Now, Brian Barker has his first chance to be the headman behind the bench.

And the long-time hockey coach gets it with a program he believes is ready to soar.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Barker said last week. He was recently hired to take over the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep program. “Right now, it’s summer, and it’s time to relax and enjoy family and vacation and everything else. But I think the mental aspect of this job is a year-round thing.”

“I’m excited at the opportunity here,” he continued. “It came up a few months ago, and I thought it was something perfect for me to jump at. What the school focuses on in academics and athletics, it’s something I love. Everything they do with sports is in tune and in line with the faith and the academics.”

Barker, a 1992 graduate of Harper Woods Notre Dame and a St. Clair Shores resident, comes to Prep after serving in a number of coaching positions, most recently as junior varsity coach for Warren De La Salle, where he still teaches and serves as the campus minister.

He also coached junior varsity at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and helped form a club team at Dearborn Divine Child.

“We are fortunate to get a coach like Brian for our hockey program,” Betty Wroubel, Prep’s athletic director stated in a press release. “He has competed and coached at many levels, and shows a real passion for not only the game of hockey but most importantly for the mission of our school.  We look forward to continuing the growth and stature of Irish hockey under Brian’s leadership.”

Barker was named to the NCAA All-Academic team in 1996 and 1997 and the NCAA All-American second team those two seasons while playing at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

His playing experience also includes stops in the North American Junior Hockey League, the United States Hockey League and the United States National Select 17 team.

Prep has struggled with consistency the past few years, and Barker said the first goal he has centers more on attitude adjustment than it does with wins and losses.

“As of right now, I think the big thing is changing the attitude around the program,” he explained. “I think that’s the key thing. We want to change the attitude of the parents, the faculty, the players — everyone. We want more of a positive attitude and a respect about this program. I think the lack of winning, from my view, has hurt. … If you can change the attitude, the winning will follow.”

So how does a first-year head coach go about doing it?

“That’s what we’re still putting in place,” he said with a laugh. “We’re putting together a coaching staff we believe will help — guys that have been players and been around the game and can work with these kids. The main thing is the integrity and the character that we want to represent.”

Having 10 returning seniors certainly could help.

“They’ve had some struggles the past few years, but with 10 seniors planning on returning, we’re going to be very top heavy in the leadership department,” Barker said. “You love that. My goal is to make sure that is a big help in getting this program back to where it needs to be.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.