Mario Lamoureux started getting phone calls, text messages and emails once Bismarck Legacy posted the job opening for its first-ever high school boys hockey coach.

He seemed like a natural fit.

Lamoureux has lived in Bismarck since 2015. He has a background as a two-time North Dakota boys hockey state champion and as a captain with the UND men's hockey team. He had already started coaching, too, running Lamoureux Hockey camps in the summer in the region.

But it wasn't a slam dunk.

Lamoureux wasn't sure he was ready to be done playing professionally.

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In 2019-20, he averaged more than a point per game for his team in Dresden, Germany, and finished fifth in the entire league in scoring. In 2020-21, he averaged more than a point per game for teams in Hungary and Germany.

"You spend your whole life trying to be the best hockey player you can be," Lamoureux said. "Hockey meant the world to me as a player. The opportunities it has given me have been incredible. I sat down and evaluated the situation. As much as the game means to me as a player, taking a coaching position in this region will mean a lot more to young players in the future.

"I had to take a step back and say, 'I think it would be more important to coach a group of high school kids in this area. It will mean more than playing a couple more years in Europe.' There's a bigger purpose for me to serve people in this community. I have a lot of heavy feelings about (retiring from playing), but I'm excited about this."

After winning two state titles for Central, Lamoureux played four years of junior hockey for the Tri-City Storm in Kearney, Neb., before joining UND's hockey team. Lamoureux served as captain for both Tri-City and UND.

His pro career spanned 10 seasons. In North America, he played in both the American Hockey League and ECHL. In Europe, he had stints in Austria, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Hungary and Germany.

The 32-year-old won a championship in Denmark.

Lamoureux had coaching in the back of his mind since he joined UND's team in 2008.

"I think I've always had a passion," he said. "It started helping with camps in Grand Forks, pretty much when I started at UND."

Coaching has run in the Lamoureux family.

Mario's brother, Pierre-Paul, is the head coach of the Fargo Force, who will play in the United States Hockey League's Clark Cup Finals beginning Friday.

Mario said he wants to impact the region beyond his position at Legacy. He will continue running his Lamoureux Hockey program, which features camps, a three-on-three league and a traveling team program.

"I'm going to be coaching Legacy, but my goal is to grow hockey in this area, whether it's in Bismarck, Mandan, Dickinson, Williston. . . my goal is to get more kids playing hockey," Lamoureux said. "The goal is to try to develop more players moving onto juniors, college or maybe even the NHL one day. I want to get more kids playing, more kids staying in hockey and create a hockey atmosphere here that people love playing and say, 'Hey, this is what I want to be a part of.' I'm going to work my tail off to make sure that happens."