Guy Gadowsky can sure command a room, and a hockey team, with just a few words.
As Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters said, "Guy is sort of the Clint Eastwood of coaches."
Gadowsky was hired to lead Penn State into its first NCAA Division I season on April 24, 2011, after rebuilding Princeton's program for seven years. With his first season at Penn State coming to a close, the coach could be found at Tuesday's practice watching over the team in the stands. This is something he learned in his over a decade of coaching experience.
During the summer, the coach had a chance to sit down with Ken Hitchcock and Mike Keenan, two well-established coaches of the NHL, where they discussed their coaching philosophies for about two hours.
"They were sort of similar to me, in the fact that you learn as you go," Gadowsky said. "[Coaching] is really more of working on your philosophy and it's less about systems."
"[...] It's very difficult to do than specific X's and O's, so you become very aware of how over-coaching can really slow down a team and paralyze a team."
Walters described Gadowsky's communication skills as bar-none, an attribute that he said guided the Tigers to transform into a stronger, more competitive program.
"Penn State and Princeton paid him more per spoken word than any coach on the staff, this goes to show you that sometimes words heard are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter," Walters said. "Guy can communicate very, very effectively without saying much, and that's something you can corroborate with the players."
Guy Gadowsky decided he wanted to retire from professional hockey when he was 25 years old. After that he interviewed for just about every job -- firefighter, cop, accountant, and those are only some.
The Edmonton, Alberta native was even offered a few of those jobs, but he said something else would satisfy him more.
Gadowsky recalls fond memories of he and his father on the campus of University of Alberta. Gadowsky said those experiences helped spark his desire to become a college hockey coach. So, one day he said he wrote down everything that he had to do.
"I learned that I just loved hockey so much and I just had to be a part of it. I just had to," Gadowsky said.
One of the first jobs he had was with the Fresno Falcons of the West Coast Hockey League. The brand-new, start-up program is where he learned how to become an architect of a hockey team.
"I learned a lot about what it takes to start something up and it was a lot of hard work, but after it went going and went well, it was very fulfilling," Gadowsky said.
After the Falcons, he coached for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and, later, Princeton University. He inherited these teams with losing seasons and turned them both into competitive programs.
The Nanooks hadn't won more than 14 games in the previous five seasons and Gadowsky led them to their first 20-win campaign since they joined the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Princeton Tigers only won a combined eight games in two seasons prior to Gadowsky's arrival. Five years after he got a hold of their program, they saw a record of 22 victories and made appearances in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference hockey tournament.
Walters said Gadowsky was the last coach Princeton interviewed during its coaching search, and described him as one of his "all-time favorites." He said most people didn't know who Gadowsky was when the Tigers hired him, but people quickly found out.
"He turned our program around, made us incredibly competitive," Walters said. "He also was able to embrace the culture and values of Princeton in a way that he was able to articulate to student-athletes, resulting in a program that did some fabulous things here."
He said that, more importantly, the student body and student athletes loved playing for him.
"There's not one bad thing that I can even think about that I could come up with as it relates to Guy," Walters said. "He's a fabulous human being, he's a fabulous coach, he's a fabulous father. Penn State has the real deal."
Throughout his first season as head coach of the new NCAA Division I men's hockey team, Gadowsky constantly emphasizes the importance of building a foundation for the future.
In this future, he said he imagines a 'rabid' student body that loves hockey.
"That's the best thing about Penn State -- their students," Gadowsky said. "They're the best, they're the coolest. They're so much fun to play in front of -- the student body and the alumni. So, I can't wait to get into the Pegula Ice Arena and get that place rockin'."
In the mean time, he continues to focus on building that foundation. It's something he said is more fun than it is tough, and also very fulfilling.
"Once you've done it, you realize how important it is...And as you've done it a few times it becomes more fun because you can see what aspects are really important," Gadowsky said.
"We have guys, whether it's Tommy Olczyk's representation or David Glen blocking shots or Kenny Brooks winning battles or whatever. You can see certain aspects of building a foundation and how it's important."
Gadowsky admitted that when he started coaching he thought he knew everything, but in reality he said he knew absolutely nothing. Out of all the things the coach has experienced since then, he realized there's even more.
"I've learned a whole bunch," Gadowsky said. "But I've also learned just enough to know that I have a whole lot more to learn."