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Hynesight 50/50

By Mass Hockey, 01/11/24, 2:15PM EST


Former BU forward John Hynes keeps a positive outlook on hockey no matter what

What’s the next best thing to playing in the National Hockey League? Coaching in the National Hockey League -- or at least that’s the level of optimism that John Hynes views it as.


Hired as the Minnesota Wild coach on Nov. 27, the former Boston University forward has enjoyed nearly three decades behind the bench in The Show with the Wild, Nashville Predators (2019-23) and New Jersey Devils (2015-19).


Hynes has seemingly always managed to find the silver lining in any obstacle. He’s faced hurdles and challenges in hockey with a sense of positivity that isn’t easy to come by.


“There’s really no sense it getting (mad) or frustrated when things don’t go your way,” Hynes explained. “It’s important you keep a positive mindset. Keep moving forward, you know?”


Hynes had envisioned a playing career that, minimally, extended into his 20s. The Warwick, Rhode Island native entered his freshman year of the 1993-94 season with limited playing time, but was a part of the Terriers second straight Frozen Four appearance.


“It’s never easy when you’re not playing. You don’t play hockey to sit on the bench,” Hynes said. “But you do play hockey to be a part of the team. There’s always a role to fill.”


He made the most of it. He showed up to the rink every day and was a large part of the Terriers squad that won the 1995 NCAA championship. Hynes’ junior year, the gritty fourth-liner had a career-high four goals and six assists, helping BU to a third straight Frozen Four.


When senior year came around, Hynes had earned himself a look on the second line. But during the first game of the season, an awkward hit into the boards resulted in a ruptured disc in his neck, abruptly ending his playing career.


Still, he made the most of it.


“I was majoring in physical education because I always had an idea that coaching might be a part of my future,” said Hynes. “Other than my parents, I would say my hockey coaches have had some of the biggest impact on my life. Particularly when I got to high school my head coach, Mike Gaffney, I just had a tremendous amount of respect for him. A real strong role model.”

Hynes remained with his team to close out his senior year as a volunteer coach. The next season, his tutelage under U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Jack Parker continued as a graduate assistant.


From there it was on to assistant roles at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (2000-02) and the University of Wisconsin (2002-03) before becoming a head coach at the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan from 2003-09 where he posted an overall record of 216–113–19–9. He helped Team USA capture gold (2006), silver (2004) and bronze (2008) at the IIHF World Under-18 Championships. Hynes was also an assistant with the 2004 gold-winning World Junior Championship team.


“USA Hockey will always be such a special, special piece of me,” said Hynes. “Being able to play a role in young mens lives and really help mold and develop them is something that’s been so important to me.”


After success at the NTDP, Hynes moved up to the American Hockey League with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, first as an assistant and eventually as head coach where the Penguins qualified for the playoffs in all five seasons under Hynes including two conference finals appearances.


Since getting his first pro shot in 2015 with the Devils, the former AHL coach of the year is 296-263-63 in the NHL and counting.


Adversity has come with each 263 loss, and with each firing. But in keeping that optimism, Hynes continues to grow, teach and learn every step of the way.


“You never know it all,” said Hynes. “I remind players of that too -- even at this level. You can never stop learning. To me, a large part of that learning comes with the having the right mindset of growth and confidence. Those are two big things I want to leave my players with at any level I coach.”

“It’s never easy when you’re not playing. You don’t play hockey to sit on the bench,” Hynes said. “But you do play hockey to be a part of the team. There’s always a role to fill.”

The other big thing big piece of positivity Hynes wants to ensure all players at every level maintain? FUN.


“The more fun you’re having at the rink, the more smiles there are and just the genuine enjoyment of being at the rink that you feel, that’s when you find success,” said Hynes. “I think at any level hockey needs to be fun. Hockey is the game that you love. Sure, winning is fun and it makes it easier to have fun at the rink, but you have to make sure you’re having fun with it. The fun allows you to be loose, and have a mentality about the game that makes it more coachable.


“Especially with the grind of a season, certainly at the professional level but also even as kids, if you’re not making every moment at the rink fun, eventually you’re not going to want to be there. Then you start feeling the pressure, and your mindset and focus changes.


“Fun should always be a priority -- the only priority for youth hockey.”