The Alexandria boys hockey team has been one of the top teams in Section 6A over the last decade, but new head coach Josh Meyers is hoping to take the program to the next level.
After seven seasons at the helm, Ian Resch stepped down following the Cardinals' loss to St. Cloud Cathedral in the Section 6A championship game. That opened the door for Meyers to take his first head coaching job in his hometown.
"I think it's really cool to be in Alexandria and a program that gave me so much in life to be thankful for," Meyers said. "I ended up playing hockey for about 26 years, so to give back to a community that gave me so much is an honor."
Meyers graduated in 2004 from Jefferson High School before playing two years at the junior hockey level. After playing in the United States Hockey League and the North American Hockey League, Meyers attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Before the Bulldogs became a national powerhouse, they battled their way through the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which was the best conference in college hockey at the time.
"A lot of the top Minnesota kids from that time were who I was playing against," Meyers said. "North Dakota and Minnesota had strong teams. Then there were teams like us and St. Cloud that put together good years but didn't have the consistency of those bigger programs. A lot has changed in college hockey since I played, that's for sure."
During his senior season in Duluth, the Bulldogs won the WCHA title while Meyers won all-WCHA honors. After his time was up in Duluth, he spent the next six years playing professionally around the world.
Meyers signed with the Calgary Flames in August of 2009 and played two years in their farm system.
"I got the opportunity to go to the main NHL camp and try out for the team," Meyers said. "I got to play with Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and some of those big guys that were with Calgary at the time. I did that for two years before I ultimately saw my window to make it to the NHL surpass me."
Following his time with the Calgary Flames organization, he played professionally in Italy and Germany.
"I wanted to experience hockey to its fullest and get as much out of it as I can," Meyers said. "Italy is a beautiful country, but I obviously didn't speak Italian. The guys on the team and everybody there was awesome. It was such a great experience."
For Meyers, all roads led back to Alexandria. He started his coaching career in the youth hockey ranks before spending the last two seasons as an assistant at Northstar Christian Academy.
"I was a defensive skills coach, so I wasn't on the bench during games," Meyers said. "They practice two times a day, so during their morning practice, I would help out with the defenseman. In my opinion, they have a unique thing going on over there, which is a positive thing for the community. They focus on a lot that happens outside of hockey, and I think that's important."
Starting on June 1, Meyers will get the chance to introduce himself to the Alexandria boys hockey team officially. Even though he's in a new position, he's familiar with the roster he will have to work with next season.
"Most of the kids I've had some sort of a relationship with in the past, whether it's through the youth hockey level or some skills practices I've run," Meyers said. "This is a great program to be a part of."
Ben Kvidt, the activities director for Alexandria, is looking forward to what Meyers can bring to an already successful program.
"Josh has a tremendous amount of hockey experience," Kvidt said. "He had an extensive playing career at many different levels. He's passionate about hockey and teaching the game to kids. He’s fortunate enough to have been around a lot of great coaches that he's able to take things from."
During the coaching search, Kvidt looked for a person who fits what he wants all Alexandria coaches to embody as teachers in and outside of competition.
"I think Josh would be the first to tell you that there's been a lot of success in this program already," Kvidt said. "It's not like he has to come in and rebuild. We've been successful in the last few years, and I think Josh will try and bring this program to the next level."
Alexandria went head-to-head with Cathedral in the 6A title game the last four years. Meyers acknowledges how impressive that run is, and he's looking to take the Cardinals a step further.
"I think their success is something to be proud of and something that I wanted to be a part of, but there's still work to do," Meyers said. "I would like to see those four section championship appearances turn into four state tournament appearances. There's always room to grow, and that's what I'm looking to build upon."