Darren Blue became part of the Minnesota State University, Mankato men's hockey program in 1991.
Nine years later he joined MSU's coaching staff.
There may be no one associated with MSU who bleeds purple and gold more than Blue.
But after more than two decades as an assistant coach with the Mavericks, Blue has decided to step away from the MSU bench and take a job in the private sector. His resignation was officially announced on Monday. Blue has accepted a position as a business strategist in the Sports and Recreation Business Unit at ISG, an engineering and design firm in Mankato. He will start at ISG in August.
"It's hard to believe 21 years in this position has gone by so fast. I think that's a testament to the quality of people and players I have had the opportunity to work with during this time," Blue said in a statement released by the MSU athletic department. "I have appreciated every day that I have been able to wear the purple and gold and represent Minnesota State University and the hockey program. I look forward to watching from a different seat as this program continues to build on past success."
Blue, a defenseman, played under legendary coach Don Brose at MSU from 1991-95 and was a part of the program when lobbying efforts for the Civic Center to be built were going full speed ahead. Brose, Blue and his teammates were among the community members who helped to drum up support for the half-percent sales tax that was and is used for the construction and upkeep of the arena that opened in February of 1995.
“Unbelievable. When you talk about passion for the program and moving into this rink, he’s told the stories of going door-to-door to get this arena done,” current MSU associate head coach Todd Knott said to The Rink Live, about Blue, back in late March. “And now as a coach, the amount of work he’s done with alumni and all the little details, his prints are all over this, in terms of making this place our home.”
Blue, a native of East Grand Forks, was hired as an assistant coach at his alma mater in 2000, the first year of Troy Jutting's tenure as head coach. Blue remained on the staff when Knott joined as an assistant coach in 2009, and again when Mike Hastings was hired as head coach prior to the 2012-13 season.
Blue has been part of MSU coaching staffs that have guided the Mavericks to seven national tournaments, six WCHA regular-season titles, three WCHA playoff championships and one Frozen Four. Sixteen former Mavericks have advanced to the NHL during Blue's time in Mankato and he has helped MSU to the best record in Division I hockey over the past nine seasons, 236-89-24.
"Darren Blue has been synonymous with Maverick hockey for over two decades," Hastings said in a press release. " I am grateful for his decision to stay on as assistant coach when our staff started our journey together nine years ago. His integrity, class, and passion for Maverick hockey and the city of Mankato has helped build our program to where it is today. He was a captain when he wore the Purple and Gold and has been instrumental from day one on helping me understand what it means to be a Maverick."
Blue, 50, was integral in building the Mavericks team that recorded the program's first NCAA tournament win and earned the first Division I Frozen Four appearance in program history this past spring. MSU went 22-5-1 in the COVID-altered 2020-21 season, beating Quinnipiac in an NCAA West Region semifinal, then topping in-state rival Minnesota to reach the Frozen Four. The Mavericks' dream run ended with a 5-4 loss to St. Cloud State in the national semifinals in Pittsburgh.
Hastings was quick to credit his assistants for the team's success last season.
“They’re the ones who do all the heavy lifting,” Hastings said of Knott and Blue, prior to the Frozen Four. “The guys who sit in the head coaches chairs understand it’s incredibly important who you surround yourself with.”