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The man who turned it around

Alex Todd is known by many as friendly, intense, hard-working, passionate and dedicated. The Wisconsin native has been an inspiring teacher to his players ever since he was named head coach of the men’s ice hockey team here at Castleton State College in the summer of 2005, taking Dean Greg Stone’s place.

“He was an enthusiastic young coach with a great plan for building a program,” Stone said of Todd. “He works tirelessly to have a successful program.”

With his new job, he acquired a team that was in a desperate search for its first win ever. Only a year after establishing 4-18-3 record in their first season, Todd’s team went 17-6-4, earning them the school’s first ever national ranking as high as eighth in the country on the United States College Hockey Online Poll, and winning the school’s first ever playoff game.

What is Todd’s secret to the team’s new success?

“Discipline and lots of it!” the Union College graduate emphasized. “All college kids everywhere are their own worst enemy. If they only knew everything that they can do, their potential is limitless. I feel that the best way to show students what they are capable of is lots of responsibility and discipline. After a while it becomes second nature and students naturally do what is necessary to be number one, not what is necessary to just get by.”

Stone couldn’t be happier with the success of his successor.

“He has done just what he said he would and continues to do so,” Stone commented. “He has recruited players to fit his system. They are a very disciplined hockey team with the emphasis on TEAM. They are great role models of student athletes and he has done a fine job of mentoring them.”

One student Todd has seen vast improvement in is Junior Craig Richardson, who finished very strong last year and has started this year even better. The 6-foot-2 defenseman is also learning more than just hockey from Todd.

“The most important things I’ve learned from Coach Todd are how to be professional, along with how to be more active in my community,” Richardson explains. “I personally believe that both of those are valuable life skills that everyone should learn.”

Defenseman Jared Lavender and goalie Jeff Swanson echoed those sentiments.

“Things I learned under coach can be applied to both on and off the ice,” Lavender said through an e-mailed message. “These things are hard work, professionalism, no excuses, meaning excuses don’t help solve problems or make a bad situation better, goal setting, to commit completely to something you want to do, pay attention to details, and always try to make yourself and people around you better.”

“Every day is an opportunity,” Swanson added. “Growing up playing hockey, you are always trying to advance yourself to the next level and I have always been preached, ‘You never know who’s watching.’ Hockey is all about taking advantage of your chances.”

Before Castleton

Todd was born in Eau Claire, Wis. on Oct. 22, 1978 to Harry and Barbara Todd. He grew up in Rice Lake, Wis. and that is where he learned all he knows now about the sport of ice hockey. Playing up to his senior year in high school, he left in the following summer to play in the United States Hockey League for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in Dubuque, Iowa.

His skills caught the attention of the assistant coach of Union College Kevin Sneddon. Todd and his best friend, Jay Varady, were both recruited by Sneddon at the same time.

“Alex was a tough competitor who hated to lose and always pushed his teammates to be better,” said Sneddon, now the current head ice hockey coach at University of Vermont. “That is why he has really developed well as a head coach. He remains true to his beliefs and his passion for the game.”

From College to Professional

Todd played for four years at Union before graduating in 2001 with his future wife Alison, who he had met in a class in their senior year. After dating off and on through the first half of that year, they got serious during the second half after hockey and haven’t parted since.

After college, Todd then signed a professional contract with the Fresno Falcons in the West Coast Hockey League. He played with the Falcons from 2001 to 2003. Right after leaving Union with a stand-out rookie season, Todd picked up where he left off and earned Rookie of the Year honors for the Falcons, as well as being voted onto the league’s “All Rookie Team.” The perfect end to his rookie season came in the form of the Falcons winning the title of Taylor Cup Champions.

“Winning a championship in a team sport is a huge accomplishment and I liked it so much that I knew I wanted to pursue championships as long as I could,” he said reminiscing. “As I started to see the end of my playing career a few years later, coaching was a logical step because I still had a passion for winning championships, and developing championship traits in athletes. That is what coaching is all about.”

He finally hung up his skates after two more years in the WCHL and one year in the Central Hockey League, and pursued the other side of the bench. His first coaching job was at Utica College in Utica, N.Y., where he helped them earn the recognition as ECAC West regular season champions while working primarily with the defensemen.

Todd continually works to recruit new players to Castleton and help improve his current players, but does this guy ever get a break?

“Anything that my wife cooks I love,” he comments. “She is an excellent cook, and I spend so much time on the road recruiting that getting a home-cooked meal is a huge treat!”

Lasting Impressions

Todd has made an impact here at Castleton, both on the ice and off. He has successfully given his players a drive to succeed in their goals and to look forward to great futures.

“It doesn’t take much time with Coach Todd to see what his focus is on,” Swanson says. “When I was first recruited to Castleton by Coach Todd, he was putting so many hours that he was sleeping on the couch in his office. As far as I know, he still may on occasion. He loves the game and gives the team every opportunity to succeed in our lives and on the ice.”

“I think everything that I have done in hockey helps my players,” Todd states. “I try to relate or put myself in their shoes whenever I can. Seeing as though they are not professional hockey players yet, my professional experience helps them on the ice with our drills and systems. They are a little more advanced and lot more fun to run so they enjoy the challenge of playing at a higher level.”

Todd lives in Rutland, with his wife Alison, who he married just recently this summer, and his two dogs Delaney and Bauer.

And after a bit of a rocky start this season, the team now sits at 13-10-2 and is peaking heading into the playoffs.