Tyler Goeckner-Zoeller is the General Manager of the Loyola Marymount University Men’s ice hockey team. He founded this team in 2006, graduated from LMU in 2008, and was recently entered into the LMU Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. He has led the team to many achievements since he first started the program, including being named the #1 team in California, and competing in Regionals.
We interviewed Tyler to better understand the perspective of college ice hockey from a GM position, and to therefore help athletes understand what college teams are looking for. In addition to the transcript below, Tyler explains his goals for the season, the transition from adult league to DII, how the pandemic affected his ability to recruit new players, how hockey has gained popularity on the West Coast, and what he is most grateful for in this position.
Related school rating: Loyola Marymount University
What inspired you to start the LMU hockey team back in 2006?
There were a lot of guys who played hockey at LMU when we were there, and there was one guy named Chris Miller, who had always dreamed of playing college hockey, and sent a Facebook message to the whole school. We got 14 guys together and started playing. The year after that, I took over the team, and hockey is a great sport, and we always wanted to play for LMU, and it just wasn’t offered. So, we made it, and we’ve grown it ever since.
Did you start at the DII level?
We started as an adult league. We just got 14 guys together, some of which had played one year of hockey their entire lives, and some who had played at a really high level, and we just played “beer league” with a bunch of other old men. The year after that, we joined the college club league (ACHA), which we are in now, and we’ve been DII since then.
Do you see the team reaching any higher levels?
The goal is to play NCAA DI hockey. That would be awesome. Until one of us wins the lottery, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think LMU is the perfect spot for a DI hockey team. In the meantime, I think we’ll stay at DII ACHA.
What do you look for in recruits?
We’re looking for kids who’ve played higher levels. But, the one thing at any college sport level, is you want guys who are committed and really want to continue to play. We have a lot fo kids who come out here, and they’ve played really high-level hockey, and they’re either over it, or they’re not committed, and they wash out of our program, and it ends up being a big waste for us because we have this really good played and could’ve been a really good team that year, and they’re more of a distraction than a help. So, primarily, we want guys who are committed, who really want to play, and who want to see the team succeed.
You also need athletes who can afford private school tuition who can get accepted into the school.
Are there any misconceptions that you’ve noticed in the recruiting process from your role as gm?
*chuckles* There are so many! Number 1, for hockey, you’re probably not going to play professional hockey. You’re probably not going to play NCAA hockey. ACHA is really good, and there’s a lot betters than you, most likely, who are playing at this level, and they are not superstars. That’s the one thing: we talk to kids all the time who overlook these opportunities to get a great education and play really good hockey still because they think it’s beneath them.
I think people look down on these club teams, think of them as intramurals, but that’s not the case.
How do you determine if an athlete deserves a scholarship?
All club-level sports, don’t get scholarships from the schools, aren’t technically allowed to give scholarships even if they found some sort of loophole. Your best bet is to get in with the team, and see what they can do to get you some sort of merit or financial scholarships.
This comes to being realistic about your opportunities. There are great opportunities out there for everyone, adn it may not be where you were hoping, but you can still play really good hockey.
Talk to the hockey programs, and they might be able to help you find ways for cost-savings.
Have a question you need answered or a coach we should interview? Email us at [email protected]