High school sports are more than what a spectator sees from the drop of the puck to the final horn. Dave Snuggerud, an educator for more than two decades, understood that.
And while he helped resurrect a Chaska boys hockey program that once feared it would have to cut its JV program, it is his belief in everything that surrounds hockey, life lessons, teamwork, determination, education, that he is most proud of as he walks away from the head coaching position with the Hawks.
Ann Snuggerud, wife, said she still remembers the night he came home with the job once again. Dave went to interview for the girls hockey job at the time and was asked to coach the Chaska boys.
"He has given so much to so many kids; really cared about them as an athlete and a person," Ann said.
Sean Bloomfield, who started as an assistant coach with Snuggerud before being elevated to a co-head coach role in recent years, saw first-hand the impact Snuggerud had.
"Dave created a culture of excellence in Chaska hockey. Excellence on the ice, but even more importantly excellence off the ice. In the classroom, in the community, at home. That culture has directly correlated with a strong program on the ice," Bloomfield said.
After leading Chaska hockey from 1998 to 2007, Snuggerud, who appeared in 265 NHL games and was a member of the 1988 Olympic team in Calgary, returned to the post in 2012. He won 129 games over nine seasons, leading Chaska to the Section 2AA final in 2020.
"He's a Grade-A person. Tons of integrity. Speaks his mind, but doesn't demean people. Always does what's best for kids. That's what you always want in a coach, said Lee Smith, head boys hockey coach at Eden Prairie the last 28 years. "His teams were always creative. They played the game right. They played both ends of the rink. Their staff always squeezed every ounce of energy and talent out of their kids."
RETURN TO THE BENCH
Derek Annett was a sophomore the season Snuggerud returned to the Hawks' coaching post. While not the most talented teams, certainly not the deepest, Annett's final three varsity seasons were about grit and development.
"When Dave came back to coach it definitely was a new style of game. Chaska was able to improve through new systems and style of play," Annett said. "He shows accountability in his players, which teaches kids not to only go out and try, but to truly compete to win hockey games."
Winning hockey games is something Chaska began to do. Though it wasn't easy when the Hawks made the jump back to Class AA in 2016. Ben Urbanciz making 70 saves, yet Smith and Eden Prairie won 6-0.
But that team had the building blocks that would soon take Chaska up the rankings. They won 17 games in 2016-17. Their 18th win in 2017-18 came over Eden Prairie on the Eagles' home ice in the playoffs.
Chaska won 19 games in 2018-19, the senior year for current Gopher defenseman Mike Koster. Yet it was 2019-20 where Snuggerud and the Hawks surprised everyone by advancing to the section championship, finishing with 16 wins, and coming up just one goal short of state versus Smith's Eagles.
"Man, that atmosphere was great that night. We were lucky to hang on," Smith said of the 2020 Section 2AA championship at Mariucci Arena. "I'm sad because we're losing a great hockey guy from the coaching ranks. There just isn't many old school hockey guys left that you can sit down and share ideas and have fun with. We can reminiscence and still today I can congratulate him on coming into our place and beating us. And then the next year we played better that day and we beat them. We were probably the underdogs then. We both wanted to win, but at the end of the day we could shake hands and walk away from it with mutual respect."
During his second tenure Snuggerud coached his oldest son, Jacob, now an equipment manager with Dubuque of the United States Hockey League.
"Dad always knew what to do. He could turn a team around. The team would go from 2-20 to .500 in one year with the same roster. My dad coached me my whole life; the best thing about that is I could always trust the person behind me on the bench," Jacob said.
And he coached the youngest of his four children, Jimmy, a budding forward that starred as a freshman at Chaska last year before being invited into the National Hockey Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this year.
"Having my dad as a coach was awesome. Though he was hard on me, he was hard on everyone else with the same intensity. He coached me growing up and was basically my coach my whole life. He really loves to make players better hockey players and human beings. He focuses on the small details in a player's game and can fix it within a heartbeat; he knows what it takes to be the best you can possibly be," Jimmy said.
"Having him on the bench my final high school season was phenomenal. He really forced the guys to be the best they could while coaching the game. I would always remember standing in the stands as a fifth grader watching him lose his head yelling at the refs with that steaming red face. Then four years later seeing that face to face brought back many memories," Jimmy added.
For Bloomfield, the primary principal at Breakaway Academy in Chaska, a school Snuggerud co-founded, the mentorship as a coach, as an educator, as a human being, was profound these last nine years.
"Working with Dave has been life-changing. Both as an educator, a coach, and a friend. I haven't met anybody in the coaching or teaching world as dedicated to each kids' success regardless of what accolades they can help him for. He loves Chaska hockey, but more importantly, he loved each kid and wanted to see them succeed, regardless of what that meant for his own legacy at Chaska," Bloomfield said.
Snuggerud will continue with his director of education role at Breakaway Academy, which opened a third location in the east metro in Woodbury on April 1.