When Dave Smith introduced himself to the Canisius College athletic community, he said he was looking forward to the opportunity to help write a chapter for the school's hockey program.
At Canisius, Smith will be charged with righting a Golden Griffins hockey program which became embroiled in controversy during the past season.
"With 25 years of Canisius hockey, we're not rewriting those great years or the bad years, we're starting a new chapter," Smith said. "I don't know what's true, what wasn't true. There are some tremendous players and great kids on the team. They want to prove to everybody that what was written about them and what was said about them is not true. When I met with them I asked if they had any questions and they said 'Coach, can you help us improve our image in the community?' "
Smith was formally introduced as the third head coach in Canisius hockey history Friday afternoon at the Koessler Center. He has spent the last three seasons at Atlantic Hockey rival Mercyhurst, where he was the associate coach and recruiting coordinator. He also spent two years each at Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio) as an assistant coach after playing six years of minor league hockey.
While Smith was already on the phone making some recruiting calls before Friday's press conference, the first order of business will be rebuilding the reputation of the Canisius hockey program.
The school fired long-time head coach Brian Cavanaugh in early December amid rumors of a player revolt. Clancy Seymour and Stephen Fabiili took over for Cavanaugh, who had been head coach from since 1980 exception of the 1982-83 season when Carl Koepple coached the team. A week after Cavanaugh stepped down, there was an incident on a road trip to North Dakota where players allegedly drank alcohol charged to college credit cards, then damaged a hotel room and with injuries sustained by junior forward Jon Durno. That handling of that episode led to the dismissal of Associate Athletics Director Marshall Foley and the resignation of Director of Athletics Tim Dillon.
The image of undisciplined players and a program on the edge of losing control overshadowed improved performance on the ice for the Griffs, who tied Mercyhurst for second place in Atlantic Hockey with a 14-7-3 mark. Their 16-15-4 overall record marked their first winning season since 2000-01 (17-12-4).
"They've had some success and I just want to build on that," Smith said. "I want to pay attention to the details. There's a fine line between winning and losing. We want to be on the positive side of that line. A lot of it is communication and expectation.
"It's all about what can we do today. We can not build a bridge tomorrow. It's a day-by-day process with little momentum builders. We can't change what's been said or written or talked about in the past. We can affect what they say today."
For their part, the players were looking for a new coach to help them not only get that breakthrough season and the elusive automatic bid to the NCAA tournament but one who would instill discipline into the program.
"He's seems like he's real determined and passionate about coaching," sophomore forward Michael Cohen, from Williamsville, said. Cohen was one of the current players involved in the search committee's interview process.
"We knew that if he came in, we'd want to work extremely hard for him and he'd work extremely hard for us. At the same time, though, he's an authoritative figure and will instill discipline in our program. I think a coach needs to be a combination of everything. He needs to be someone who is going to lead you, but (Smith) is also a very approachable guy. He's easy to talk to and if there's ever any concerns we can walk right into his office and feel comfortable talking with him."
Hometown: Arthur, Ont.
Family: Wife, Susan, and daughters Ellis and Kylie
Alma Mater: Ohio State, 1992
Experience: Associate Coach, Mercyhurst (2002-05) Assistant coach, Bowling Green (2000-02) Assistant coach, Miami (Ohio) (1998-2000)