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Herman retires from coaching on a high note with Lincs

By Spencer Seymour

Mike Herman thought coaching was in his rearview mirror years ago.

Originally from Chatham, Herman joined the St. Marys Lincolns with an extensive coaching background. One of his stops along the way was as an assistant at the side of Clark Singer at Western University, a coaching staff that also included the current general manager of the Lincolns, Pat Powers.

Herman told the Independent his time in St. Marys went better than he could have ever envisioned.

“It exceeded my expectations times a million, honestly,” said Herman. “By the time I was out of coaching, I was burnt out. I had coached professional women’s soccer, ran my own power-skating school and coached multiple levels of hockey, and when I was out of it, I had zero interest in doing it again and never thought I would. But I knew from my experience with Merlin (Malinowski) and Bill (Bourne) what kind of place St. Marys is from the standpoint of the support for the team and what the Lincolns meant to the community. If it wasn’t for that and getting to work with Jeff (Bradley), I probably wouldn’t have done it.”

The connections between Herman, Powers and current Lincs bench boss Jeff Bradley date back to when Powers accepted the head-coaching job with the London Nationals. Ready to step away from coaching, Herman turned down the opportunity to join Powers behind the Nationals’ bench but, as Herman explained, he did offer a recommendation.

“Pat got the head-coaching job in London and asked me if I wanted to go with him. At that point, I felt pretty burnt out, but Pat asked me if I knew anyone who would want to get started and become an apprentice of sorts. I only wanted to send guys that way if they're truly passionate about it. Jeff was the first guy I thought of because I always viewed him as a mini me.”

Herman explained what he found most impressive about Bradley as he developed as a coach.

“I knew Jeff was going to be passionate and really willing to learn and I knew Pat was the right guy because of the connections we had from Western. We all embraced the systems and the approach that Clark (Singer) had at Western. So, I knew Jeff would learn the right way with Pat. What I didn't know was how much he was going to immerse himself in it and how much he was going to evolve as a coach.”

Bradley echoed the similarities between the two, noting Herman’s presence added greatly to his development in his first two years as a GOJHL head coach.

“Mike and I are very, very similar people,” Bradley said. “We have a similar sense of humour. We view the world very similarly. He's just a little more mature about it. He has helped me see

hockey for what it is, not just on the ice but the politics that can come along with it. He's had a lot of experience with players and sometimes it's hard to understand what players are going through personally, and he's been through so many of those situations, so he was able to help me go through that. If I have a problem that I can't deal with, I can always confide in Mike.”

Though Herman had no intentions of re-entering the coaching world, he and Bradley maintained their relationship as Herman lived in Kelowna, B.C., and Bradley assumed the top coaching job in St. Marys. Upon learning of Herman’s plans to return to the area, Bradley pushed his older counterpart to take one final coaching lap.

“When Jeff found out I was coming back from B.C., he came at me hard about coming to help,” said Herman. “I was pretty unsure about it at first because I was enjoying life without commitment, but when I got back to London, I started to think, ‘What harm does it do to try?’ I didn’t know what I was capable of anymore because I'd been out of it for four years. I didn’t know if I could connect with the kids, so I agreed to come in just as a support guy. But as things progressed, it was like riding a bike. It was pretty seamless and, eventually, Jeff asked me about running the defence and the penalty kill.”

As Herman’s role with the team evolved, his relationship with Bradley strengthened to the point Herman was more in sync with a head coach than ever before in his career.

“The awesome thing about it was just how much Jeff and I were aligned in our approach to coaching tactically, philosophically and how we handle players and situations. Even though I'm twice his age, we basically became best friends. It's the most aligned I've ever been with a coach that I’ve worked with.”

“Jeff is the best coach in our area,” Herman continued. “That's not disrespecting anybody else. There are some really good coaches in the area, but being able to coach with Jeff and watch his evolution over the last two years and see the passion that he puts into it, the way he treats the players and his willingness to admit when he doesn’t know something and grind until he finds the answer; I really respect Jeff and believe he is at the level of a Clark Singer.”

Herman also noted he loved working with the rest of the Lincolns’ coaching, training and equipment staff.

One of the biggest memories that stands out in Herman’s mind regarding his time with the Lincs is the support from the fans, who, in his eyes, re-established St. Marys as a premier hockey hotbed in the province.

“I obviously began seeing the support of the community in the 2022-2023 season with the Chantler and Lamoureux group. I still watch the video sometimes of people chanting sweep when we swept London. That was an amazing vibe, but this past year took it to another level.

“It has allowed me to end my coaching career on a much more positive, energetic note than when I ended it the first time around,” added Herman. “I couldn't have asked for a better ending to my coaching career. It was phenomenal. There is no other place in our area that would be like that, and I'm not sure there are many places in Ontario that would be like that.”

Herman called the experience of the Lincolns winning their first Western Conference championship “off the charts.”

“I look at our team picture when we won the Western Conference title and you look into the stands. Those people were losing their minds. The chants and support when we were in London were amazing and we all felt it. Then after the game, all the people who came to us and said, ‘I’ve been waiting 30 years for this.’ People were crying when we won. It was unbelievable.

“The added thing that was cool for me was living in St. Marys while this was going on. I was watching it close up and I was going to the Snapping Turtle for coffee in the mornings and doing my video work and having all these old hockey guys come up to me and talk about the team. It was awesome.”


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