Former Lincolns’ star has been named NAHL’s coach-of-the-year three times in the past seven seasons
By Pat Payton
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – No surprise, Dan Wildfong has his team in the thick of things again.
Wildfong’s Lone Star Brahmas (20-10-5-2) are currently in second place, just six points out of top spot in the North American Hockey League’s South Division.
It’s not bad for a Junior team that literally has to rebuild each season, says the former St. Marys Lincolns star, who is both head coach and director of hockey operations. Last year, Brahmas had 16 players accept NCAA Division 1 scholarships, and another four obtained Division 3 school packages.
“I just got done watching video with my guys,” the 46-year-old Clinton native said from North Richland Hills, where the Brahmas are based. “We’re in a very tight division. We’re six points out of first place, but only eight points separate second place to seventh place in our (eight-team) division,” he noted.
“Every year, we only have three or four guys come back, so every year we’ve got almost a whole new squad. We have to do a lot of scouting, recruiting, calling players and having tryout camps. It’s a grind.”
Lots of parity in division
Wildfong says there is a lot of parity in the South Division, which makes for a lot of excellent hockey.
“It’s a great division,” he said. “Every night, you have to have your ‘A’ game. Every team seems to have good goaltending and four strong lines, and you can’t make mistakes. Most of the games are 2-1 and 3-2 and really tight-checking.
“Every year, we’re one of the top teams in the league, but this year we had a slow start. We recently brought in a new goaltender and it’s changed everything.”
Brahmas are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
Wildfong says the NAHL style of play gets the players ready for Division 1 NCAA college hockey. “They’re used to playing that brand of hockey. Every night in our league, you have to battle and compete. It’s fast hockey, too.”
The NAHL, meanwhile, hasn’t taken a break due to Covid this season. And last year (2020-21), the league managed to play a full season (Lone Star had to cut their schedule by only four games), while Junior leagues in Canada (such as the GOJHL and OHL) had to cancel their entire seasons.
Fifteen seasons in Texas
Dan Wildfong has now coached 15 seasons in Texas. He was bench boss of the Central League’s Texas Brahmas for six years and won a league title in 2008-09. He has coached the Lone Star Brahmas for the past nine seasons. They won the Robertson Cup in 2016-17, when the team had 44 regular-season victories. Wildfong has also been named coach-of-the-year three times in the NAHL (2014-15, 2016-17 and 2019-20).
In 15 seasons coaching hockey (pro and Junior) in Texas, Wildfong has amassed over 500 wins and his teams have missed the playoffs only once.
He’s had a great career in hockey – both as a player and a coach.
Wildfong played three seasons for the Jr. ‘B’ Lincolns (1992-95). In a stellar career in St. Marys, the feisty left winger had 89 goals and 235 points in 133 regular-season games. He was a key member of the ‘93-94 Lincs team which won the Western League title, beating Mark Hunter’s Petrolia Jets in six games.
Earned Division 1 scholarship
In Wildfong’s final season as a Lincoln (‘94-95), he had 46 goals and 107 regular-season points and earned a full NCAA Division 1 scholarship at Colgate University in upstate New York. No Lincoln has picked up 100 points in one season since.
After four years at Colgate, Wildfong played eight years of minor pro and won a couple of championships with the Shreveport-Bossier Mudbugs.
In 488 games with Shreveport, he collected 192 goals, 302 assists and 494 points – better than a point a game. The team captain also had almost 2,000 penalty minutes. He retired following the 2006-07 season as one of the most highly-regarded players in Mudbugs’ franchise history, and had his No. 10 jersey retired by the Louisiana-based club.
When Wildfong’s jersey was elevated to the rafters, former Mudbugs’ teammate and later his coach, Scott Muscutt, had this to say in the Shreveport Times.
“What do we want from every player? Guys who work hard, put their team first and win at everything they do — that competition makes their blood flow,” Muscutt said. “That’s Dan Wildfong. He’s that guy who wakes up in the morning and is finding a way to be better than the other guy.”
Muscutt once played for the GOJHL’s St. Thomas Stars.
–The NAHL has 29 teams in total, in four divisions. The Tier II Jr. ‘A’ League has teams all over the U.S., including two in Alaska and five along the Eastern seaboard. The league was founded in 1975.
“We bus to most of our games, and fly to games in Minnesota and Alaska,” Wildfong says.
–The Brahmas have mostly American-born players this season, although they have players from Czechoslovakia, Japan and Slovakia, and they recently acquired a player (Matt McQuade) from Ontario who was playing on another team in the NAHL. He’s from Stittsville.
“Most of our guys are 19 and 20-year-olds, but we do recruit younger guys, too,” Wildfong says. “We hold (tryout) camps in Detroit and Chicago.”
–North Richland Hills is located between Dallas and Fort Worth, and has a population of just over 63,000. Wildfong and his family live approximately 15 minutes from the Dallas airport.