By Kim Paulsen
3/21/2022 – DeKalb, IL | DI Huskies head coach Nick Madonia has announced his resignation from the NIU Hockey program as the organization has officially concluded the 2021-2022 season.
Madonia, who has been the head coach of the DI Huskies for the past two seasons, made his decision on his own terms due to multiple personal reasons.
“After doing some reflecting at the end of the season, I decided that the right move was going to be to step away as head coach,” Madonia said. “Between everything that has happened with [my son] Leo, starting the Loving Leo Joseph Foundation, and my career taking off, I wasn’t confident that I was going to be able to commit the time that these guys [on the DI Huskies] deserve to have a successful season.”
Once Madonia reached this conclusion, he wanted to let NIU Hockey know right away.
“I didn’t want to drag a decision out into late spring or summer,” Madonia explained. “I wanted to give everyone as much time as possible to bring a new coach in and get them situated in the program.”
Madonia’s decision wasn’t an easy one to make as he has been involved with NIU Hockey in some capacity for over a decade.
“I have been part of the program since 2011,” Madonia said. “This program has been a huge part of my life and my growth as a person. I met my wife because of NIU Hockey, I have made lifelong friends, and have met some of the best people in the world because of NIU Hockey.”
“Nick has meant so much to NIU Hockey,” general manager JC Weems said. “He has been there through some highs and lows. At the end of the day, he made the program better in multiple ways. Nick will always be welcomed back should he ever get the urge to come back.”
Madonia’s involvement with NIU Hockey began during the 2011-2012 season as a player on the DIII Huskies. The following season, he was named captain of the team.
Early in the 2013-2014 season, Madonia was named head coach of the DIII Huskies and enjoyed a lot of success with the team. With Madonia behind the bench, the DIII Huskies won back-to-back MACHA Bronze championships in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. During both championship seasons, Madonia was named the MACHA Bronze Coach of the Year.
After the second championship season, which was his final season behind the DIII bench, Madonia was named as a coach for the MACHA DIII All-Star team in Philadelphia, PA, where his championship-winning players Weems and Tyler Hilton joined him as NIU representatives.
Madonia then got the call up from the DIII Huskies and served as the DII Huskies’ head coach from the 2016-2017 season through the 2017-2018 season. After a brief hiatus away from the organization, Madonia returned to NIU Hockey as the DI Huskies’ head coach for the past two seasons.
“The NIU Hockey program will always mean so much to me,” Madonia said. “The last 11 years–minus my two away–have been dedicated to the program. I have invested more time than I can even begin to comprehend in this program, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I have always taken pride in the fact that, in the changing landscape of the ACHA, we have stayed a true ‘club.’ We are run by the students and a group of dedicated people manning the front office. The program has taken steps forward over the past few years and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the organization.”
“I want to thank my wife, Alaina, for all of the support and understanding with all of the weekends away, taking phone calls at inconvenient times, and never missing a home game,” Madonia added.
Madonia’s tenure behind the bench left a lasting on-ice impact for his players.
“The biggest life lesson Coach taught me was life keeps going no matter the bump in the road; no matter what, you still have another game to play,” DI captain Rodahn Evans said.
“The biggest lesson [he] taught [me] is when things aren’t going your way, just put your head down and push through,” DI junior forward Hunter Wahl said.
“Nick has taught me many lessons,” Weems said. “He’s taught me most of what I know about coaching and he is always the first person I go to when I have challenges with coaching.”
While he left a lasting impression on his players on the ice, Madonia left an even greater, more important impact on every single individual who was associated with the program in one way or another.
“He was more than a coach for me,” Evans said. “He was there as more than [even] an authoritative figure. [For example], I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it to the rink one day and the first thing he did when I got to practice was hug me. Coach is a kind, great human being, let alone a coach.”
“After my car accident, he took care of me like I was his family,” Wahl said.
“One of my best memories with Nick would be winning the two MACHA Bronze championships while [I was] playing,” Weems said. “Over the years though, the memories are countless and most of my best stories start with Madonia being there and involved.”
Madonia feels similarly about the important, lasting impact the people in the organization have made on him over the years, both on and off the ice.
“Getting to work with all of the people involved in the program over the years [has made a life-long impact on me]; the list [of people] is too long to even start,” Madonia said. “And most importantly, having the chance to meet and work with a few people I consider my best friends like [assistant general manager] Wayne [Bower], Weems, and [former DIII assistant coach Brian] Hyken for years is something I don’t take for granted.”
While he has made an infinite amount of memories during his time with the program, there are a few in particular that stand out to Madonia the most.
“The entire team showing up for Leo’s funeral was something that I will never forget and meant more to myself and my family than I can describe,” Madonia said. “Definitely the two championship and Coach of the Year seasons. Being asked to coach the All-Star Selects in Philly was probably the biggest honor of my coaching career to date. Getting a chance to come back and join the DI team and being able to get my first win at DI, giving me a win at all three levels at NIU is something that I’m very thankful for as well.”
Madonia’s absence will be felt throughout the team and the program wants to ensure it does all it can do to find a solid replacement for him.
“This process will be kickstarted here over the next week or two,” Weems said. “We want to be sure to be thorough and make sure the new coach is a great fit for the program.”
Though he may not be behind the DI bench anymore, those that know Madonia are sure he will achieve success in whatever may come next for him.
“I hope Coach has a wonderful time with the next step in his life,” Evans said. “I hope he stays around to help in little things and it’ll be amazing to see where his next step in life [takes him].”
“[He is a] great communicator and I wish him nothing but the best in his career,” Wahl said.
“I’ve been lucky to work with Nick for about 11 years now,” Weems said. “Nick has been a teammate, coach, and best friend of mine. I am excited to see where he goes next and know that he will be successful in whatever he does next.”