Eric Hofmann’s ultimate goal is build the Kasson-based Dodge County boys hockey program into a southern Minnesota dynasty.
Hofmann, who recently was hired as the Wildcats’ new coach subject to final approval at an Aug. 16 school board meeting, is as much a realist as he is an optimist.
“I know it is going to be ton of work,” the 24-year-old coach (Hofmann turns 25 in late August) from Illinois said. “I’m at the bottom of the mountain right now. Especially coming out of southeastern Minnesota.
“But whether people want to admit it or not, there are some good players down here.”
If anything, the Wildcats will almost assuredly be impossible to beat in terms of fitness.
Hofmann’ Performance Training company conducts hockey-tailored speed and agility camps throughout the Midwest. He also launched an e-training division of the company in April that provides customized training programs and 24-hour support for clients living anywhere in the world.
“We’ll be in great shape, I can guarantee that,” Hofmann said.
Hofmann, who played at the Midget AAA level for the Chicago Chill and collegiately at Northern Illinois, worked as the strength and conditioning coach for the Rochester Ice Hawks of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League last season, when the Ice Hawks finished third at the USA Hockey Junior A Tier III national tournament.
“I’d like to think I played at least a small role in the team’s success,” Hofmann said.
Using an unconventional approach that relies heavily on resistance training, Ice Hawks players were more likely to spend a workout session hoisting tractor tires than lifting dumbbells.
“It was a unique training style that he had,” Ice Hawks coach Nick Fatis said. “We were doing a lot of non-traditional stuff. It kept things fresh for the guys, that’s for sure.”
Hofmann takes over at Dodge County for Matt Erredge, who resigned after last season. Erredge guided the Wildcats to a 12-14-1 record last season, including a 4-0 first-round upset of Rochester Mayo in the Section 1AA tournament. Dodge County, seeded last in the nine-team tournament, came close to knocking off No. 2 seeded Lakeville South in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats led 2-1 after the opening period in an eventual 4-2 loss.
Dodge County, a co-operative program that includes Byron, Hayfield, Kasson-Mantorville and Triton high schools, returns several top players from last season and should be bolstered by the return of defenseman Chad Mundy, a senior who played for the Ice Hawks last season.
“He’s young, and I think he has to develop his style a little bit,” Fatis said about Hofmann. “But this is going to be a good step for him. It’s not like he’s walking into the Dodge County program of 10 years ago.”