Chagnon relishing challenge to maintain WB hockey program

By: Mike Moore | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 22, 2014

WEST BLOOMFIELD — The door has revolved often — a transition of not just players on the roster, but coaches behind the bench, as well.

When Joe Chagnon accepted the head duty with the West Bloomfield High hockey program this winter, he became the fourth coach the team had known in the past five years.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Chagnon said last week, now a little more than halfway through his first season with the Lakers and first as a head coach. “I want to be with this program for a while. They’ve had the year-to-year thing with coaches, and that’s never a good thing.”

Chagnon, 31, originally agreed to serve as an assistant to Steven Kuza, who is also a good friend.

But when Kuza resigned his position, Chagnon threw his hat in the ring to take over.

“I went through the hiring process, and I think I shared a lot of the same goals (the administration) did,” Chagnon explained. “I was fortunate to be offered the spot.”

Coaching is nothing new to the Royal Oak resident.

Chagnon, a teacher in the West Bloomfield district, played at Walled Lake Central during his high school career and then joined on Oakland University’s club team in college.

He started coaching as an assistant at OU after graduation before serving as an assistant with White Lake Lakeland.

Now, he’s a Laker.

“The game of hockey is something I love, and this challenge is something I’ve embraced,” he said.

The challenge he spoke of was a team loaded with youth.

After reaching the state quarterfinals last year, West Bloomfield bid farewell to 12 seniors. The year before, 10 seniors graduated.

The current squad has just two elder statesmen, along with four juniors.

The rest are sophomores and freshmen.

“Usually, kids like that get to learn about varsity by watching and absorbing,” Chagnon said. “But these kids have to learn on the fly, and they’re being expected to contribute right away.”

At press time, the Lakers were 3-10-0.

“We were realistic with expectations,” Chagnon said. “It can be frustrating to lose, but we knew this was going to take some time. The thing I love is that while the wins haven’t been there, the energy and the work ethic certainly has been.”

Chagnon said it’s all a process right now, from watching his guys mature, to seeing them take on more responsibility, to eventually developing a well-rounded team.

“We’re going to compete here,” he said. “That’s the goal. To make this a program that has the ability to compete every single year.”