A day in the life of a hockey coach

Mike Wang, Staff writer

5:30 AM

A man rises out of bed. He rarely sleeps. How could he? With so much jam packed into a week, let alone a day, it’s hard to imagine a person’s mind not racing all night thinking about the next day’s agenda.

The man is Chris Walby. He turns on his laptop and checks his emails. The only things in his inbox are hockey related. Walby is the head coach of the Madison Capitols, an AAA youth hockey team. Mid-morning comes around and he flips on ‘The Dan Patrick Show’ for a little background noise. After checking on how some of his former players are doing Walby then begins working on his website, wiscohockey.com.

Wiscohockey.com is a forum for Walby to write blogs, rank prospects and is a valuable scouting tool as he ranks the top high school players in the state. The website is also the name of the spring and summer teams he coaches.  Walby is the owner, GM and head coach of wiscohockey.com.

12 PM

Noon rolls around and Walby starts to make phone calls to junior league scouts and begins preparations for that evening’s practice with the Capitols. It is an important time for the Capitols as they are trying to finish strong and make the state finals, but with spring is approaching, Walby is also hard at work making preparations for his teams.

The site as well as the teams help his players move on to junior league hockey. In the spring he takes kids from all over the state and Midwest to top-end tournaments such as the Prospects Tournament in Toronto. This is the crown jewel of all the tournaments, with NHL scouts on hand and many of the kids looking to get scholarships and be noticed for their talent. The entry fee for one game can be up to $2,000. It is what they would call “big time.” He takes up to three or four teams at a time to these tournaments. He is able to do this because many kids looking to move on to junior league hockey want to play specifically for Walby, not just because of the website but also because of his proven track record for graduating his players to the next level.

Just before he takes off to the rink for practice, the head coach checks Blackboard Academic Suite because the man is also enrolled at Madison Area Technical College.

“I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire,” he said. Walby started here three years ago and is just about to complete his journalism certificate. He plans on transferring to UW-Madison at some point. In taking journalism classes, Walby was able to refine his skills as a writer and put them to use through his website. He believes it is very important to write and he loves doing it.

6 PM

The head coach has arrived at the ice rink. Practice begins with some off-ice weight training. After this the team heads to the ice for an hour and a half of practice.

Walby is always evaluating the talent of his players and making mental notes about their progression, even while on the ice coaching. He is very effective at this. Of the 150 players he ranked last year, 80 percent of his picks panned out and are having some success at the next level. He was very accurate in his ranking of the top 10. All are playing in junior leagues with evident success.

“This job is my time to myself,” Walby said.  “This isn’t really a job. I love this.”

The man is passionate and articulate when he talks about helping his players reach the next level just as he is when he discusses his website. He is very dedicated.

“I work hard for you, so you work hard for me,” Walby said.

Walby is demanding of his teams, and he expects nothing less than his players’ full commitment to him. While the job is hard work for him too, Walby says he definitely isn’t in it for the money, stating it “pays the bills.” He is in it for the kids and the satisfaction of seeing his players journey all the way through their youth and onward.

When asked where he sees himself in 10 years Walby hopes to be in a “bigger, more established” position, perhaps coaching a club in the Junior A league. Though he admits he is tied to staying in Madison and Wisconsin in general. From growing up in Lodi, Wis. and going to Badger hockey games as a kid with his grandmother, to attending Edgewood high school because “they had hockey,” to Middleton where he currently resides, the man lives, breathes and bleeds hockey.

9 PM

The head coach is on his way back home. When he arrives he is back at his laptop working on the next day’s agenda. “It’s a lot of work keeping up with parents, coaches, and scouts,” he said.

However, for the love of the game, this head coach has no problem putting others before himself.