He has lived in Hudson for the last four years.
Therefore, Mike McNeill felt like he owed something to a place he now calls home.
"I wanted to give back to the community," he said.
Fortunately for the longtime stick-handling guru, he’ll get his wish.
McNeill recently was hired as the varsity head ice hockey coach at Hudson High School. The 43-year-old McNeill was previously the general manager at Gilmour Academy Ice Arena in Gates Mills. He also has spent several years as a coach on both the high school and collegiate levels.
"It’s great," McNeill said. "I live in the area and I have a lot of coaching experience. I’m looking forward to it."
McNeill previously was an assistant coach with Kent State University’s club team. He also was an assistant coach with Penn State University’s club team that won a national championship.
McNeill coached Division I collegiate athletes, as well. He spent time as an assistant coach at Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
On the high school level, McNeill finally had a team he could call his own. He spent several years as the head varsity coach of Gilmour’s ice hockey team, which featured many elite players.
"I had 17 kids go Division I and a lot of others go Division III," McNeill said. "I’ve had kids play in semi-pro leagues and one go to the NHL."
McNeill is referring to the appropriately named John Gilmour, who is currently a defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Explorers, on the other hand, have yet to produce a Division I collegiate player. But that doesn’t mean Hudson has been mediocre over the years.
The Explorers finished 17-14-2 last season after losing in the third round of the Kent district tournament. Which team ended Hudson’s season? There seems to be a theme here. That’s because it was none other than ... Gilmour.
As for McNeill, topping his former squad and making a deep run in the tournament sounds enticing. But there are other things that are even more attractive than winning, according to the veteran coach.
"My No. 1 goal is to make sure they become productive members of society first," McNeill said. "I want them to become good student athletes. Hockey comes last for me. It’s about doing the right things and becoming good people."
McNeill, who played hockey at Kent State after graduating from Euclid High School in 1994, said there are 25 players on his roster. Don’t expect the new coach to instruct his players to sit back.
Much like previous years, Hudson plans to attack, attack and then attack some more. Thus, the nets might look more like Christmas trees if the Explorers are in town.
That’s because they expect to light them up this winter.
"That’s the plan," McNeill said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.