Boys Hockey: Former Hawk Noonan brings expertise to Naperville North
BY DAN RUANE For Sun-Times Media March 6, 2013 12:20PM
Former Chicago Blackhawk and current Naperville North head coach Brian Noonan gestures to his team between periods of their game against Sandburg Sunday. | Photo by Frank Polich
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:11AM
Brian Noonan grew up as a tough, scrappy kid from south Boston who played high school hockey and see-sawed between the Blackhawks and minor-league teams for eight seasons before finally becoming a regular in the NHL.
He gritted it out.
Now he brings that same determination and work ethic to his job as Naperville North’s boys hockey coach, and it is paying dividends. Noonan has his team in the Blackhawk Cup this Friday against Fenwick and in the finals of the Metro West Cup against Sandburg. The Huskies have a 41-13-6 record this season.
‘‘It’s really nice playing for him,’’ Naperville co-captain Paul Mascitti said. ‘‘When he gives you advice, you use it to the best of your abilities, and normally when he tells you to do something or look somewhere it usually ends up in a goal or a good play.’’
Noonan is hesitant to talk about his NHL days with his team, but is willing to use that experience to help a player if needed. However, teenagers don’t always appreciate the finer aspects of the game.
‘‘They want to know who you ever had a fight with and things like that,’’ Noonan said. ‘‘They don’t want to know anything that might help them. They want to know the goofy stuff that kids want to know. What kind of skates you had and what stick did you use and things like that.’’
Noonan became involved with the Huskies program eight years ago.
He started as an assistant coach and liked it so much he eventually took on head coaching duties.
‘‘He knows everything that we do wrong, right away,’’ senior co-captain Jake Novack said. ‘‘He’s definitely helped my development. He’s one of the best coaches that I’ve had.’’
Noonan played for Mike Keenan on four separate teams, and Keenan was known to want players that fit his hard-nosed approach to the game.
One of Noonan’s stops was with the Stanley Cup-winning New York Rangers in 1994. Noonan assisted on Mark Messier’s game-winning goal in Game 7. Controversy still surrounds the goal, and many insist that Noonan should’ve been given the credit for scoring the goal.
‘‘I get credit from a lot of people, but not the right ones,’’ Noonan said. ‘‘Nothing can be done about it. I’m certainly not going to make a stink about it.’’
The former Blackhawk took root in Chicago after his playing days to be close to his daughter, plus he enjoys living in the area. That brought him back to high school hockey, a path that started him on his way to the NHL.
He realized, though, that today’s players have many more options than he did growing up.
‘‘A couple of kids in the past where if I felt the kid was a AAA [caliber] player, I certainly would tell him to go that route if he wanted,’’ Noonan said. ‘‘But if he wasn’t a AAA player, I’m a strong proponent of playing for your high school. I favor playing high school over going to travel and playing on the Central States teams. That’s just me, though.’’