The Copper Island Hockey Club, LLC, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce the coaching staff for their inaugural season in Eagle River, Wisconsin.
Blake Hietala will join the team as head coach effective May 1, 2022, and Casey Kirley will remain with the franchise as assistant coach after serving in the same role in 2021-22.
Hietala is concluding his fourth season as an assistant coach and first as the Assistant Director of Scouting for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. Hietala was the architect of the highly effective Gamblers’ power play over the past two seasons and assisted in the scouting and evaluation of future talent. Prior to joining the Gamblers, the Houghton, Michigan native, served as an assistant coach and Director of Scouting with the USHL Madison Capitols for the 2017-18 season.
As a player, Hietala was a member of the NCAA Division I Michigan Tech Huskies for five seasons. After overcoming injuries early in his college career, he became a valuable member of the Huskies contributing key goals on a Michigan Tech team that was ranked number one in the nation for a time during Blake’s tenure. After graduation, Hietala played 104 professional games, splitting time between the ECHL and Southern Professional Hockey League. Hietala retired as a player in 2017.
Hietala did play in the NAHL for the Bismarck Bobcats during the 2007-08 season.
“Blake has the reputation of being extremely professional, a great communicator and developer of talented young players,” stated Copper Island Hockey Club partner, John Rockwell. “He is driven and meticulous. His USHL experience performing dual roles in coaching and player personnel/scouting will serve him well in the NAHL. Blake’s vision and knowledge of the game, as well as his coaching style, resonates very well with players.”
Hayward, WI, native Casey Kirley will serve as the club’s assistant coach. Kirley just concluded his first season as the assistant coach of the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians and will be transitioning with the team to their new home in Eagle River, WI. Prior to his tenure with the Magicians, Casey served as an assistant coach for two seasons with the NAHL Shreveport Mudbugs, helping that club capture the 2018 Robertson Cup as NAHL champions. He also served as an assistant coach for Trine University in 2019-2020 and three seasons as an assistant in the NA3HL. As a player, Kirley played two seasons in the NAHL and concluded his playing career after four seasons at the University of Wisconsin – Stout.
“We are pleased to have Casey return home to Wisconsin with the team he helped coach this past season,” said Hietala. “Casey’s knowledge of the players and the NAHL, coupled with his ability to get the best out of young players, will serve our team well in the coming season. I look forward to working with him.”