Call from Blackhawks to coach in NHL got heart of Bulldogs' Plante pumping

Derek Plante has stepped down as associate head coach of Minnesota Duluth to become an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks. He'll work with three coaches who he played with during his 15-year professional career.

Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey prepares for NCAA Regional game against Michigan Tech
Minnesota Duluth associate head coach Derek Plante talks to players during practice at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota on Friday, March 26, 2021. Plante is leaving the Bulldogs to return to the Chicago Blackhawks as an assistant coach.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Back in early July, Minnesota Duluth associate head coach Derek Plante witnessed his oldest son, Zam, go to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fifth round of the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal, Quebec.

A little less than three weeks later, Derek Plante was the one getting the call from the National Hockey League. The Chicago Blackhawks, who employed Plante as a developmental coach from 2015-2020, wanted him to return as an assistant coach.

“I got the call maybe last week Wednesday or so just to kind of see if I had any interest,” said Plante, the Cloquet native and Hermantown resident. “My heart just start pumping right away.”

A resident of Hermantown and native of Cloquet, Derek Plante was a development coach for the Blackhawks from 2015-2020.

The Blackhawks made Plante’s hiring — initially reported by the News Tribune last week — official on Monday morning. Plante will work alongside fellow assistant coaches Derek King and Kevin Dean on the staff of new head coach Luke Richardson.

Plante, 51, played with all three during his 15-year professional career, that included eight in the NHL. Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the eighth round in 1989, he was traded from Dallas to Chicago with Dean in 2000, played with Richardson in 2000-01 in Philadelphia and then played with King overseas.


Plante said “all three are really great dudes,” and that it will be a fun staff to be a part of.

“I’m super excited,” said Plante, who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 2000 after five-plus seasons in Buffalo. “There’s a lot of good people involved, and as much as anything, it’s a great staff. I played with all three guys that are the other coaches. I’m super fired up about it. It’s a great opportunity.”

Minnesota Duluth associate head coach Derek Plante talks with goaltender Ryan Fanti during practice at Amsoil Arena in Duluth during the 2020-21 season.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Plante played four seasons for the Bulldogs from 1989-1993 and returned to his alma mater in 2010 to serve as an assistant coach under Scott Sandelin. He left to work with the Blackhawks prospects in 2015, but returned to UMD two years ago as associate head coach because he said he wanted to be back on the ice working with hockey players on an everyday basis. He wanted to be involved with what was happening on the ice everyday, he said.

Plante did that at UMD over his seven total seasons as a coach — helping the Bulldogs get to two Frozen Fours, win an NCAA title in 2011 and NCHC Frozen Faceoff crown this past season — and now he’ll do that from the bench at the highest level.

“It will be a challenge, it’ll test me a little bit getting to stand in front of Patty Kane, Jonathan Toews, some of these guys that are hockey legends,” Plante said. “It will be a little nerve wracking at first, but hopefully I’ve earned my stripes enough to be able to help them in some way. I’m excited for the challenge.”

The move to Chicago comes at the right time for his family, Derek Plante said. Zam, a UMD recruit who is heading into his senior year of high school, will be playing a good chunk — if not all — of the 2022-23 season in juniors with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. Max — the middle child of Derek and his wife, former Bulldogs softball and basketball standout Kristi Plante — is slated to play the next two seasons on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, which is based in Plymouth, Michigan. The youngest child, Victor, will be a freshman in high school this fall, and will play his second season of bantam hockey in Chicago.

Hermantown's Zam Plante, a future Bulldogs forward and standout scorer for the Hawks, will be joined by his brothers, mother and grandfather at the NHL Draft this week in Montreal. His father, a coach at UMD and NHL draft pick himself, will also be there in person after missing out on the 1989 event in Minnesota.

Sandelin said it was great to get Derek Plante back on the coaching staff the past two seasons, and he’s excited for Plante to coach in the NHL.

“It’s pretty cool to see him get that opportunity,” Sandelin said.


The Bulldogs head coach of the past 22 seasons said he’ll begin the process of finding Plante’s replacement this week. Sandelin said he has some possible candidates in mind and some interested people have already reached out, but the three-time national championship coach said he likes to go through the process and open up these searches. Interesting candidates that you never thought of can emerge, people that bring a different perspective, Sandelin said.

“It’d be great to get it done before our guys get back (on campus), but it may go deeper depending on the process,” Sandelin said of hiring a new assistant. “I don’t want to rush into it. I want to make sure it’s the right fit. If it takes a little more time for that person getting here and getting settled, it takes more time.”

Blake Biondi, the Hermantown native, along with linemates Quinn Olson and Dominic James, scored two first period goals to jump start the Bulldogs on Friday at Nebraska Omaha. The penalty kill took over from there to put UMD in position to sweep the series Saturday at Baxter Arena.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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