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 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood goaltender Shawn Bromley tracks the puck Jan. 17 against Novi Detroit Catholic Central at home. The Cranes are under the leadership of new coach John LaFontaine.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood goaltender Shawn Bromley tracks the puck Jan. 17 against Novi Detroit Catholic Central at home. The Cranes are under the leadership of new coach John LaFontaine.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

LaFontaine in charge of Cranbrook hockey

By: Jacob Herbert | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 20, 2020


BLOOMFIELD HILLS — John LaFontaine’s coaching resume includes stops with the United States Hockey League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, the North American Hockey League’s Wichita Falls Warriors and Shattuck St. Mary’s, a boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota, that is home to alumni including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise.

During his time at St. Mary’s, LaFontaine coached current NHL stars Clayton Keller and Nathan Mackinnon.

Now, after a year of being an assistant with Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood’s hockey program, LaFontaine is the head man behind the bench.

At press time, the Cranes were 8-7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North Division.

“He’s very supportive,” senior Noah Goldberger said of his new head coach. “His biggest thing is letting us all know he cares about us and he does a great job of that. He always says hi to us, asks us how we’re doing and has one-on-one meetings with us. He’s a big fan of hard work, and it works well for us.”

LaFontaine takes over for Andy Weidenbach, who coached at Cranbrook for 26 years, won 10 state titles, had two state runner-ups, 20 regional titles and four league championships. The new coach said he feels no pressure taking over for a man who was inducted into the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

“I’m sure there could be (pressure),” LaFontaine said. “Andy has been great. Steve Graf, my athletic director and our administrative team have been nothing but supportive. It’s been a great transition here.”

When it came to bringing in a new coach, things were relatively smooth for all the players given LaFontaine’s time with the team last year. Goldberger said the two coaches split time running practices, which gave the kids an inside look into what LaFontaine was all about.

LaFontaine’s coaching philosophy is centered around development. He’s spent his whole coaching career developing young players and getting them ready for college. His approach focuses on treating every practice and every team discussion as an in-game scenario.

That developmental style to coaching is key as LaFontaine takes on a team with just six seniors. The leadership group includes core players Daniel Juzych, Edward Agamov, Bryce Truby and Goldberger.

“We knew we were young coming in and that the beginning of the year was going to be tough,” LaFontaine said. “The goal was to take our lumps in the first half with the younger team and start to come together in the second half as a team. Now is the time to come together, because we still have a lot to prove against the better teams.”

Six of Cranbrook’s next 12 games are division opponents, including a matchup with division leader Birmingham Brother Rice at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Oak Park Ice Arena.

LaFontaine understands how important it is to beat division foes and make a run. But when it comes to overarching goals, it’s all about enjoying the ride.

“I’m a big believer that if you just focus on the end of the year, unless you’re the last team standing, you’re going to be disappointed,” he said. “For us, it’s enjoy the journey. Every week can be fun and memorable instead of just saying, ‘I can’t wait till the end of the year and win a championship.’”