ARMY LOOKING AHEAD AS HE REACHES WILD MILESTONEOct 28, 2022
Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army has never been the type for short coaching stints.
Army recently entered his fifth season with the Iowa Wild and currently trails only four other American Hockey League coaches in games coached with their current club. Saturday’s contest against the Manitoba Moose will be his 250th game with the team.
His resume includes six years as an assistant coach with his alma mater, Providence College, followed by four seasons in the same role with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and five with the Washington Capitals. Army also spent three years as a head coach at the AHL level with the Portland Pirates before returning to Providence to serve as the head coach for another six seasons. It wasn’t until after another six years as an assistant for the Colorado Avalanche that he finally had a single season stop in 2017-18 as the assistant coach of the Wilkes-Barre Penguins that preceded his current tenure with the Iowa Wild.
Many observers would consider 250 games with one club a significant accomplishment for a head coach. When discussing the milestone, however, Army is more inclined to bring up the accomplishments of the Iowa Wild, its staff, and its players over the past several seasons.
TIM ARMY’S IOWA WILD
Over the first five seasons of Iowa Wild hockey, the team struggled on the ice. While the Wild managed to finish over .500 and average over 6,000 fans in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the team still fell short of the playoffs.
On July 29, 2018, Army was hired as Iowa’s head coach. It quickly became clear that he was the leader who would help Iowa bridge the gap to the postseason. However, there were other obstacles to overcome, particularly in terms of building a Wild-focused fanbase.
“When we started here, there were a lot of Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues jerseys,” Army said.
“It has changed, though. Now when we have games and you walk around town, you see people in Wild jerseys.”
Winning had a lot to do with it. Army’s Wild saw success out of the gate in 2018-19. The team finished 37-26-8-5, good for third in the Central Division and a playoff berth. The Wild won its first playoff series, taking the opening round from the Milwaukee Admirals.
The team performed even better in the shortened 2019-20 season, finishing with a .651 winning percentage. Kappo Kahkonen was named AHL Goaltender of the Year, Sam Anas finished as the AHL’s scoring leader, and Gerry Mayhew won the Les Cunningham Award as the league’s MVP.
When AHL hockey restarted in 2020, the Wild picked up where they left off and put themselves in a playoff position. However, the league cancelled the adjusted playoff schedule following an abbreviated season.
“We were supposed to have a playoff. There was supposed to be a four-team playoff in our division and we ended in the top four. When the season started, that was the expectation, so we ended up in a playoff spot again,” said Army.
The run of success that Iowa has seen under Army has changed expectations within the organization and around Des Moines. The team drew 8,610 fans for the opening night of its 10th anniversary season against the Texas Stars. As season ticket holders caught up with each other in their seats, many of them talked about making a playoff run. And many, if not all of them, were sporting Iowa Wild gear.
TIM ARMY’S PLAYERS
When an NHL GM is building a Stanley Cup contender, it’s crucial to have home grown talent that can contribute to playoff runs or factor into a blockbuster trade that will put the team over the top. Over the past few seasons, the Minnesota Wild have consistently had one of the deepest prospect pools in the league.
Part of Tim Army’s longevity with Iowa comes back to how he has prepared Minnesota’s prospects for the rigors of the NHL. He cares deeply for his players and is personally invested in their success.
“They know I care about them,” said Army. “I’m not always easy on them. They’re not always going to be happy with me, but neither are my kids. That’s my responsibility as a parent and as a coach. I’m trying to make them better.”
Former Iowa players who played under Army and have landed full-time roles with Minnesota include Calen Addison, Matt Boldy, Connor Dewar, Brandon Duhaime, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Marco Rossi.
While Army takes a great deal of pride in seeing his former players move on to the NHL, it never distracts him from the tasks at hand. He is always laser focused on working with his current crop of talent to create new stars.
TIM ARMY’S STAFF
The list of Iowa Wild alumni currently in the NHL is not limited exclusively to players. Many former members of Iowa’s hockey operations staff have since moved up to the Minnesota Wild or work for other NHL teams.
One of Dean Evason’s assistant coaches, Brett McLean, worked under Army before graduating to Minnesota. Frederic Chabot, Minnesota’s goaltending coach, also previously spent time in Iowa. Matt Harder, Iowa’s former strength and conditioning coach, moved up to the big club this past offseason. Prior to being named assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings, Alex Tanguay worked for two seasons for the Iowa Wild.
The culture of development on the hockey operations side of the team has bled over into the team’s business operations. Many former members of the team’s ticketing, sponsorship, media, and marketing departments hold positions in the NHL, NFL, NBA, or MLB.
“It wasn’t like that when we first came,” said Army. “Many people have progressed. The dream is to work in the National Hockey League and a lot of people have. I’m really proud of the development environment we’ve created, not just for players but for coaches and staff.”
251 AND BEYOND
Tim Army will have the same primary goal heading into his 250th game with the Iowa Wild as he will for his 251st; to beat the Manitoba Moose. Between traveling to Winnipeg and putting the finishing touches on the weekend game plans, it’s unlikely that he’ll have much time spend reflecting on his previous contests with the team.
Rather, Army will spend the upcoming days doing what he does best. He’ll keep watch over each member of his team and help them not only prepare for the next game but also the next level of competition.
Based on Army’s track record, it’s only a matter of time until the current crop of Iowa Wild players and staff could be ready for the NHL.