ROCHESTER, MN – The Rochester Grizzlies, proud members of the NA3HL, announced the first member of their new coaching staff on Wednesday, bringing Rochester native Mike Aikens on board as an assistant coach. Aikens has been a head coach in three different Junior hockey leagues (NAHL, USHL, BCHL) and most recently worked as a lead skating and hockey trainer at Olmsted Medical Center’s Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance division.
The Bruins officially announced the purchase of the NA3HL franchise in Rochester last week, rebranding from the Rochester Ice Hawks to Rochester Grizzlies.
“I’m excited to be involved with the Austin Bruins organization,” Aikens said. “The Bruins have done a great job of developing players and are one of the premier franchises in the NAHL. I’m confident the ownership group will make the Rochester Grizzlies just as successful.”
Aikens’ Rochester roots run deep, having played high school hockey at John Marshall, including an all-conference selection in 1988. Aikens both played and coached for the Rochester Mustangs USHL organization in the ‘90s. His coaching career began in the USHL as an assistant for the Omaha Lancers in 1995 after his college career at Denver University was cut short due to a neck injury. From there he took the head job with the Mustangs and had stints with the Fargo-Moorhead Ice Sharks (USHL), Chicago Steel (USHL), Billings Bulls (AWHL/NAHL) and Williams Lake TimberWolves (BCHL) until 2010 when he returned to Omaha as an assistant and became the head coach in 2011.
“I’m hoping my experience in Junior hockey will help make [the Grizzlies] one of the best places for players to develop,” he said.
The Grizzlies are having ongoing conversations with candidates for the head coaching job, which is expected to be filled in the near future.