Chris Luongo Out As Head Coach; Kurt Kleinendorst New Head Coach

Here’s the press release:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Kurt Kleinendorst, a former assistant coach in the National Hockey League, has been named head coach of the men’s ice hockey team at The University of Alabama in Huntsville following the resignation of the Chargers’ current head coach Chris Luongo.

Kleinendorst served as an assistant coach and scout for the New Jersey Devils for nine years, and most recently was the head coach of the Binghamton Senators in the American Hockey League where he led that team to a conference championship in 2011. He also coached the Under-18 USA Hockey National Team to a gold medal in the world hockey championship in 2010.

“We believe Kurt Kleinendorst’s experience coaching at the highest levels of the National Team Development Program and professional ice hockey, and the discipline he will bring to the program on and off the ice, will create an environment that will allow us to enhance our status in Division I hockey as he takes over the reins as head coach,” said Athletic Director E.J. Brophy. “Our program is at a critical juncture in its history, and our best opportunity to maintain our tradition of competitive ice hockey lies with Kurt Kleinendorst.”

Kleinendorst played ice hockey for Providence College for four years, where he was an All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist. He was selected in the fourth round (77th overall) of the 1980 NHL entry draft by the New York Rangers. He was a member of the Tulsa Oilers team in the Central Hockey League, and played minor league hockey in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands through 1990.

He joined New Jersey in the National Hockey League as an assistant coach and scout, serving for nine years with the Devils organization. In that role, he helped the Devils win the 2000 Stanley Cup championship. Kleinendorst also coached the organization’s AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils, from 2006 to 2009.

“During my 30-plus year association with Kurt Kleinendorst, I have been fortunate to watch him develop as a student-athlete, player, scout and coach at various levels,” said New Jersey Devils President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “There is no question in my mind that Kurt will be a decided asset to the University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey team both on and off the ice, and help UAH in their pursuit of a major Division I hockey conference affiliation.”

The Ottawa Senators signed him to a two-year contract in 2010 as head coach for their AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators. Also, Kleinendorst’s brother Scott played in the NHL.

Kurt and his wife, Deon, have four children: Ryan, Kollin, Kaitlyn and Jake.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, and I’m hoping to put them together for you this week. I got an email from Lou at 4:22 p.m. yesterday; by 5:00 p.m., this press release was public.

This is a huge change on a number of levels. I encourage all of you to—no matter your feelings on this matter—continue to support the program. You don’t hire Kurt Kleinendorst with the idea that you’ll drop to club hockey. No matter what this move may be internally, externally it is a huge “we are committed” to the WCHA. That cannot be stressed enough. If you want to see UAH continue on as a varsity program, Kurt Kleinendorst is your head coach, and we must ride with him.

More later after things settle down a bit.