Big Rapids, Mich. - Ferris State University will welcome back one of its own as a FSU alum and the current head coach of the American Hockey League's (AHL) defending Calder Cup Champions, Jeff Blashill, will return for a special speaking engagement on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Blashill, who directed the Grand Rapids Griffins to the 2013 AHL Championship in his first season at the helm, will be back in Big Rapids for a special presentation organized as part of the Sports Speakers Series by the Sports Leadership Institute at Ferris State. The event will take place starting at 7 p.m. (ET) at the Big Rapids High School Auditorium.
Blashill's presentation will be free and the general public along with FSU students, faculty/staff, alumni and fans are invited and encouraged to attend. The event will be underwritten by Dean Rick Kurtz, College of Arts & Sciences, along with Trinidy Williams, the department head in Humanities.
"We're excited to have Jeff come back and speak about his great experiences," said Dr. Sandy Alspach, a Ferris State faculty member who oversees the Sports Leadership Institute. "He's made a big impact in the hockey world and will share his insight on this enjoyable night. We're looking forward to hearing what he has to say and expecting a large draw for this event."
A former Bulldog hockey student-athlete and assistant coach, Blashill guided the Griffins' to the first title in the 17-year history of the franchise by beating the Syracuse Crunch in the title series this past summer. The championship was the culmination of 100 games' worth of work with a Detroit Red Wings farm team's first title since the Adirondack Red Wings captured the Cup in 1982. It was the first-ever championship in nearly 30 seasons of professional hockey in Grand Rapids and came in the longest AHL season ever.
Blashill will share his story and video highlights of the championship season with the Big Rapids and Ferris State community. He will be introduced prior to his speaking engagement by his longtime friend and mentor in Ferris State hockey head coach Bob Daniels.
"I've been real, real lucky in my career," Blashill said. "I've been able to work for and with some great, great coaches and people. I couldn't have had better mentors than Ferris State's Bob Daniels (head coach) and Drew Famulak (associate head coach), who recruited me and hired me. Those guys were as good of mentors I think that any young coach could have."
Blashill guided the Griffins to their first Calder Cup after becoming the ninth head coach in Griffins history last summer. He moved to Grand Rapids after serving as an assistant coach for the parent Detroit Red Wings in 2011-12, when he helped the team to its 12th consecutive 100-point season and 21st consecutive postseason appearance. Prior to joining the organization, he served as the head coach of the CCHA's Western Michigan Broncos in 2010-11, earning several national coach of the year honors.
Born in Detroit and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Blashill has rapidly ascended hockey's coaching ladder, joining his fourth team in four seasons which was capped with yet another championship effort in his distinguished career. He began his head coaching career with the USHL's Indiana Ice in 2008-09, capturing a franchise-record 39 wins and a Clark Cup championship. He compiled a 72-43-5 mark in two seasons as the Ice's head coach and general manager before departing for Western Michigan in 2010.
While in Kalamazoo in 2010-11, Blashill led the Broncos to a 19-13-10 record, doubling the team's win total from the previous season and leading the team to its best conference finish (4th) since 1995-96. Additionally, the Broncos played in the CCHA championship game for the first time since 1986 and earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996. Blashill was named a finalist for CCHA Coach of the Year and was named National Coach of the Year by College Hockey News, Inside College Hockey and USCHO.com.
Blashill began his coaching career by spending three seasons (1999-02) as an assistant at Ferris State University, his alma mater. He also spent six seasons (2002-08) with Miami University, helping the CCHA's RedHawks qualify for the NCAA Tournament four times while recruiting three Hobey Baker Finalists, four CCHA All-Rookie Team members, 11 first or second team All-CCHA players and six All-Americans. Blashill has also been a member of Team USA's coaching staff three times – at the 2009 World Junior 'A' Challenge, the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2006 U-18 Junior World Cup.
The former goaltender spent four seasons between the pipes for Ferris State, earning the Bulldogs' Rookie of the Year award in 1994-95 and a spot on the CCHA's All-Academic Team for 1996-97. He also garnered the Ferris State University President's Award for three straight years for having the highest grade point average on the Bulldogs.