New Leadership Team in Place with expanded Roles for Acri, Gullen
For the past several months, the WHC Board has conducted a comprehensive search for our Club’s next hockey director. We owe a debt of gratitude to Mitch Ornstein for leading the search process, and applying the same tools, methodology, and energy to this process as he does for his corporate (aka paying) clients. Mitch filtered through close to 100 candidates, and whittled it down to a handful of extremely well-qualified candidates for the search committee to interview — both via Zoom and eventually in-person interviews. Indeed, the caliber of the candidates interested in this position is a true testament to the continued strength and stature of the Winnetka Hockey Club and our community.
We are proud to announce Evan Nielsen as our next Hockey Director.
Evan is a native of Evanston, Il. He grew up playing for local community clubs, the Chicago Young Americans, and Evanston Township High School. He then attended The Taft School in Watertown, CT where he was teammates with current Warrior Hockey Dads Andy McNerney, Jed Richard, and Brett Kozel. From there, he was recruited as a “true 18 year-old Freshman” (in a sport where players start their collegiate careers at age 20-21) to attend the University of Notre Dame (with Warrior Hockey Dad Derek Smith). He holds the school record for consecutive games played and is one of only 10 players in Notre Dame School history to serve as team captain for two years. After being drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers, Evan went on to play professionally for the Chicago Wolves, Gwinnett Gladiators, and Trenton Titans. He has spent the last ten years working as a teacher, coach, and administrator at Berkshire School (Sheffield, MA) and Northwood School (Lake Placid, NY).
“I am honored to join the Winnetka Hockey Club as its Hockey Director. I look forward to continuing to build upon the successful history of Winnetka hockey. I would like to thank the WHC Board for their thorough and thoughtful approach to the search process and for entrusting me with this opportunity. I am excited to get started and to meet all our players, coaches, parents and alumni soon.”
“I am absolutely thrilled that Evan was selected to lead our program. In 1997 I stepped onto The Taft School (Watertown CT) ice as a new post-graduate senior with an inflated level of confidence. It was after multiple failed attempts to get past Evan on the blue line and/or gain a position in front of the net, that I quickly reset my expectations. Despite being 1-2 years younger than most of his teammates that year, he was stronger, smarter, and more poised than most. Not surprisingly, these leadership characteristics fueled a multi-year captaincy at Notre Dame, a professional hockey career, and successful teaching and coaching jobs. I’ve enjoyed tracking Evan’s career from afar and now I feel fortunate that my kids will directly benefit from his hockey knowledge, and more importantly his positive attitude and strong leadership.”
Andy McNerney, former Winnetka Warrior, current Winnetka Hockey Dad, and teammate of Evan Nielsen at Taft
“It’s exciting for the club to have someone who grew up playing locally and understands what it takes to progress to the highest level. Evan’s hockey experience, effusive demeanor, and background as a coach and teacher will be a benefit to our program and our children. Evan has been a leader his entire career, being named captain twice at Notre Dame, and he will use those skills to bring the club to a new level.”
John Dwyer, former Warrior, current Winnetka Hockey Dad, and former University of Notre Dame hockey player.
We were guided in this search process by the Club’s long-term strategic plan, which we announced back in May. The Plan identifies three senior staff positions within the Club: (1) Executive Director; (2) Hockey Director; and (3) Player Development Manager. In addition to hiring Evan as Hockey Director, we are thrilled that Tom Gullen will continue to lead the Club as Executive Director, and Bobby Acri will continue to play an integral role in hockey operations as Player Development Director.
“We couldn’t be more excited and proud to announce Evan as our new Hockey Director, and believe the team of Tom, Evan, and Bobby sets the Club up for long-term success,” said WHC co-presidents, Doug Sharfstein and Matt Passen.
Despite all of the challenges and unknowns in the current environment, we
are more excited than ever about the future of Winnetka Hockey!