December 17, 2002
Postcard: Walt's winter wonderland

There's something to be said about spending the holidays at home. Just ask Walt Kyle.

If he were still an assistant in the National Hockey League, as he was for more than a decade as an assistant coach, he'd probably be with his team for a game Dec. 23, do a little work early on Christmas Eve, and maybe take most of Christmas Day off to be with the family. Then it's back to work – most likely a game – Dec. 26.

This year, Kyle is head coach at his alma mater, Northern Michigan. His team played against Michigan Tech Dec. 13. Their next action Dec. 29-30 at the Badger Showdown in Milwaukee. Plenty of time to trim the tree, do a little shopping and even put together a holiday lighting display Clark Griswold would envy.

Quite a change. For the better.

"College hockey provides a lot more stability for a family than pro hockey," states Kyle, who has piloted the Wildcats to a 9-6-1 mark so far this season. "We’ve been in seven cities in the last 11 years. That’s fine when the kids are younger, but when they get older it becomes more difficult."

True. But Kyle's last NHL job was with the New York Rangers. He used to live in New York City. He now lives in Marquette. He's gone from The City That Never Sleeps to a town that gets eight hours of shuteye every night. He's traded the Great White Way for the Great White North. He left a place where his team was lambasted in the tabloids on a regular basis to a burg where Northern Michigan fans were given the opportunity to meet each of the finalists to replace Rick Comley as head coach at an hour-long reception.

Quite a change. Again, for the better.

"It’s something I missed when I was away from it and something I relished coming back," Kyle explained. "It’s exciting for me to be involved not only in college hockey, but in Marquette and at Northern Michigan."

It's not like Kyle and his family haven't had the opportunity to visit the Upper Peninsula in years past. They own a cottage near Marquette, and retreated to that property in the off-season. But there's a marked difference between spending a few weeks at a place you love opposed to being a full-time resident.

"As soon as Labor Day rolled around, I’d be going back to a training camp and moving the family back to a different location," says Kyle about the routine when he was employed in the NHL. "It’s really refreshing to say, 'Wow, we’re here, we’re settled, we’re not going anywhere.'"

Quite a change. Yes, for the better.

Mike Eidelbes

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