Hockey doesn’t end for University national champion and goaltender Wayne Collins as he shares his coaching expertise with a local high school.
Collins played hockey as one of the goalies for the Falcon “Icers” from 1981 to 1985, when he attended the University as an education major. Collins continues to show his love for the game 33 years later, coaching at Sylvania Southview High School, which is only a 30-minute drive north of Bowling Green.
Collins began his coaching career at Bowling Green High School, taking the job after graduating from the University. From there, he moved to a head coach’s job at Ottawa Hills High School in Toledo.
“I was completing student teaching and I was just hanging around the ice arena, and the Bowling Green High School coach asked if I’d be interested in helping out at BG High School, so I was there for one year.
“And one day I was sitting with Jerry York, the head coach for BGSU at the time, in his office, and he gets a phone call from a parent of Ottawa Hills High School asking him if they knew anybody who would be interested in coaching over there. So he put down the phone, asked me if I would be around the area for a little bit and asked if I’d be interested in coaching high school hockey, and I said yes. So I went to a couple skates with them, and they hired me. From there, I coached at Ottawa Hills for 16 years,” Collins said.
After leaving Ottawa Hills, Collins accepted the head coach job at Sylvania Southview, where he has remained the head coach for the past 17 years. Collins’ coaching style consists of simplicity to keep the energy of the players going.
“Wayne knows the game better than any other coach I’ve had. He knows how to keep it simple, and he has a high respect for the game,” said Steve Dibble, one of Collins’ assistant coaches and a Southview and BGSU club hockey alumnus.
Steve Marvin, one of Collins’ former assistants and a 1984 Southview hockey alumnus, agrees on the simplicity of his coaching style.
“After meeting Wayne as a coach, his style did take some getting used to. He keeps it simple, but I’m not a big believer in putting plays together in hockey, so I like the way he coaches. There’s some things I never got to do coaching with other people that I got to do with Wayne,” Marvin said.
Collins’ coaching style also makes a visibly deeper impact on players. James Huss, Sylvania Southview’s athletic director, believes Collins’ coaching has made a positive impact on his players.
“Wayne has been here for a long time. It’s definitely good for an athletic program to show stability within the staff with a coach that has stayed for so long. It’s difficult for a program when they switch coaches every other year, so having Wayne here has made a positive impact on the program as a whole as well as in the players,” he said.
To Collins, coaching is second nature. With a humble smile, he said his love for coaching and hockey has never faded.
“You know, people ask me if I get sick of it. I mean, I’ve been coaching for 33 years, and I don’t. I still love it after 33 years. I like giving back to young ladies and gentlemen what I’ve learned from the game. Every season I coach is always extremely gratifying to me,” he said.
From Burlington, Massachusetts, Collins was recruited for the University’s hockey team out of high school by coach Jerry York.
“I played at Burlington High School, about 15 miles northwest of Boston, and high school hockey out there is pretty big,” Collins said. “I played in ‘Hockey Night in Boston’ tournaments for four years, which gave me a lot of college exposure, as well as a couple pre-post leagues where the assistant coach of Boston College coached my team over the summer. He was really good friends with Jerry York, who played at Boston College too, and so Jerry actually called my coach looking for a goalie, and my coach said ‘I think I might have one here for you.’”
During his career at the University, Collins bounced back and forth with other goalies, Mike David and Gary Kruzich, on who would start each week.
“It was like a see-saw of who would play from week to week. Some weekends, I would play, and some weekends, one of the other guys would play,” he said.
However, the weekends he would play, he was successful at tending the net. An article from The BG News’ Nov. 27, 1984, issue elaborates on a huge win the Falcons had over Michigan State.
“Last year everybody wanted to beat the number one hockey team in the nation — Bowling Green. This year, BG knows what it feels like to be in that position as they split with top-ranked Michigan State, losing Friday’s game 4-1 and winning in East Lansing on Saturday, 4-3. Strong goaltending by Wayne Collins proved to the key in Saturday’s win. Collins turned back 44 shots on net foiling the Spartans bid for a sweep,” the 1984 BG News Assistant Sports Editor Steve Quinn wrote.
Collins’ performance that week also earned him the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Week award.
Collins’ goaltending also bought the Falcons the ticket to the CCHA National Championship game in 1984. A hamstring injury took him out of play for a couple of weeks leading up to the final four, but he returned to play against Boston University for the semifinal and began to write Falcon hockey history.
“The final four worked as a two-game series for each round, so we played Boston twice. The first time we lost 6-3, so the second time we were going to play them, the school board read ‘Boston University 3, Bowling Green 0’ before the game even started. So the guys were kind of down, I was trying to tell them we can do this, and I told them if we win this game and we go to the final four, I’ll get a mohawk. And they lifted up a little bit, and at the end of regulation, we had three goals and Boston didn’t have any, so overall the points were 6-6. So we went into overtime, and we won in overtime. So the score overall ended us winning the series 7-6. So I got the mohawk,” Collins said, laughing.
Even if Collins did not know it, he had some fans he would later meet and coach with.
“I used to follow Bowling Green hockey a lot when I was in high school. I used to go to a lot of games, so I watched him play, so got to see him play before I even knew him. He started coaching at Ottawa Hills around the same time I started coaching at Southview, so we didn’t meet until later,” Marvin said.
From there, the Falcons went on to win the National Championship 5-4 after four overtimes with Krusich in net for the final game, but Collins cheered them on to the very end with his new mohawk. Years later, Southview still plays games at the University on occasion, and it brings a new sense of pride to Collins.
“I’m so proud to have these guys play in the rink; it’s my backyard. I’m happy for you guys to be able to see and play in that rink,” he said.
After the championship and years of keeping himself busy with the commitment of coaching high school hockey, Collins still makes sure to have time for his family.
“My granddaughter, she’s five years old. Her name is Amelia. We always play street hockey together, and I love to get her out fishing with me. This year, she started coming to our Tuesday practices, and I got her on the ice with the team a couple times. I’m trying to introduce the game to her, but ultimately it's up to her if she plays or not. Right now, she's still deciding if she wants to be a tomboy or a girly girl,” he said with a smile.
With Amelia in mind, Collins also has some words of advice for her.
“You’re going to fall down. You just have to get right back up and keep trying. You’re going to make mistakes; you just have to push through them,” he said.
Though the championship win was in 1984, Collins still pursues his love of the game and hopes to continue with generations to come.
“There’s more failure in sport than success. My favorite memories, however, weren’t just winning games. It was the best friends I made, the comradery and the memories I made in the locker room and on road trips. Those little things are the things that will stand out the most,” he said.