Last fall, Augustana started the search for its first-ever hockey team. This recruitment search led to the arrival of head coach Garrett Raboin. After spending his coaching career as an assistant hockey coach, Raboin looks forward to crafting Augustana’s first hockey team.
Raboin came to Augustana after coaching hockey at the University of Minnesota for four years. Before that, he coached at St. Cloud State University, where he also played prior.
Raboin has a lifelong history with hockey. He said he started learning about the sport as soon as he could walk.
“My first time on skates, I was about three years old,” Raboin said. “I started playing more regularly when I was maybe five years old, and then I’ve played ever since.”
Raboin’s father, who played hockey for Providence College and was drafted by the Washington Capitals, first introduced Raboin to hockey. Raboin said he believes he caught a ‘coaching bug’ from his father.
“He was always coaching, so I was always in the locker room as a young kid,” Raboin said. “I was able to overhear conversations with players and coaches and scouts and just be a fly on the wall to see how he managed.”
Right after Raboin graduated, his college coach hired him on as an assistant coach. Raboin said that he was lucky to have been brought into the world of college coaching without having to first start out at a more beginner level.
“I was able to learn from [my college coach] and another assistant, and we had success,” Raboin said. “We were able to go to the Frozen Four the first year, and we had a Hobey Baker winner, which is given to the top college player in the whole country.”
Raboin said that this successful start taught him a lot about coaching. He was able to learn the ropes in a comfortable environment with players and coaches he was familiar with.
After spending 10 years in the collegiate game as an assistant coach, Raboin said he is ready to step on the ice with a new team as Augustana’s first head hockey coach, with an exciting part of his job being the unknown aspects of building a team from scratch.
“We are going to try to bring really good students, really good people who fit Augustana, and we are going to try to grow up together,” Raboin said. “We are going to work for this team, work for each other and understand that it’s not about any one person finding success. If we all just move in the same direction together, then we are all going to be better than when we arrived.”
Raboin said he believes in strong relationships between teammates and coaches, which allows new college recruits to build something close to a second family as they enter college athletics.
“You’re with the same players for years,” he said. “You aren’t trading them, and new recruits are at such a unique part of their life. They really have to rely on one another to get through the storm and grow up.”
While there will certainly be obstacles in crafting a new team, Raboin sees these challenges as convenient excuses for their team building process.
“I want kids to understand that, sure, we can look at things as challenges, but I’d prefer us to look at the opportunities,” he said. “[With] anything worth tackling, there is always a bit of a challenge at times, but what you put into it is what you get out of it.”
Raboin said he believes that athletics teaches much more than just teamwork, an ideology his father agreed with.
“My dad is huge on giving back to the game,” Raboin said. “I’m also really firm in [believing] the game gives you so many things and affords you so many opportunities. It’s our responsibility to not make a career and a living off of the game, but to give back to the youth and help them to realize the same opportunities.”
Will Svenddal, a freshman hockey recruit, said he believes Raboin takes these responsibilities seriously. He recalls his first practice session with coach Raboin and another teammate and how it didn’t go the way he thought.
“I was expecting him to just explain the drills to us and have me and Ben do them,” Svenddal said. “But little did I know he would do every drill with us the whole practice, didn’t miss a rep.”
Svenddal said he thinks the new hockey team is in good hands.
“I think that his philosophies will create a successful program,” Svenddal said. “It’s about more than hockey with coach Raboin. He really gets to know his players away from the rink.”
While Raboin said he has many goals for his players on the ice, he also has hopes for their lives at Augustana outside of the rink.
“It’s awesome to see them become part of the student body and support other programs,” Raboin said. “I don’t want it to be hockey and then the rest of campus. I want us all to be one.”
In pursuit of that goal, Raboin said it’s important to create an atmosphere where every student is included. According to Raboin, everyone brings their own spin to the rink, and the key to succeeding is finding different people with similar goals, aspirations and beliefs.
“We all chose Augustana because it is a great place with great academics, and we can create an incredible student experience,” he said. “For me, college athletics is so much about people. When you’re a part of a really successful team, there’s a special feeling and there’s a special connection among the players.”
Raboin said he hopes the new hockey program at Augustana will make a community on campus for everyone to be a part of.